When people are irritable, give them the benefit of the doubt. There may be a good reason for the way they feel.
For example, ask the troubled person, “Did something happen at work?” or “You seem upset. Is there anything I can do for you?”
Sometimes, just a bit of compassion is all that’s needed to restore a person’s equilibrium. Tone of voice and good intentions are key, as surly people can and will read criticism into anything.
If they remain grumpy, give them some space. If they become rude, let them know that their attitude is affecting you. You’re not doing yourself or them any good by allowing them to treat you badly. You’re merely encouraging disrespectful behavior, which makes both of you feel worse.
Try not to become rude yourself. Give them some time alone and say something like, “When you’re this irritable, it makes me feel miserable too. I’m going to give you some space. I hope you feel better and can speak to me more respectfully in a little while.”
by Alison Poulsen, PhD