I'll tell you a story.
Picture it: mid-summer, sudden downpour. Carless employee arrives to work after five minute walk from bus stop. Thoroughly soaked.
Sitting in back room, knee socks peeled off, feet resting on shoes. Miserable and wet. Minding own business.
Another employee enters room, saunters passed soaked employee and loudly exclaims, "Wow! You have really wide feet!"
This, friends, is a true story.
(I'm totally the soaked employee, and ever since this incident several years ago, I've been self-conscious about my feet.)
I wish I had been prepared with a great response to this person. I know he didn't mean to be hurtful, but he was hurtful nonetheless.
Of course, directly after this encounter you know I researched "how to respond to rude comments"!
Here's what I wish I had been prepared with on that day.
Maintain YOUR dignity, even if the other person does not
According to Miss Manners, it never pays to be rude, no matter how rude the person is to you. Your dignity is maintain through the shield of your politeness. Deflect the rudeness with this shield.
Some retorts could be: "Why do you ask?", "I'm sorry, am I offending you somehow? I do apologize".
Responding with politeness puts the ball back in their court
Retorting with "Why do you ask?" allows you to avoid the question and put the burden back on the rude inquirer. The idea here is that this will make them see that the question was not appropriate, or at the very least not welcome. At worst, you can just nod in response to whatever they have to say for themselves.
Responding with a witty retort
Unfortunately, I'm not a quick-witted individual. Miss Manners often suggests responses to rude questions that contain a bit of cheeky humour. I like the idea of this, but unfortunately... (see above comment).
Of course, not only will your dignity be maintained with this route; if this person is someone you'll have to see every day, then you can feel confident that 1) any splash-back from this encounter won't stain you with any sort of office gossip, or worse, work-place reprimands, and 2) you can deal with this rude person without necessarily feeling embarrassment.
And, how did I respond to that rude comment, lo those years ago?
I was so taken aback by the question; things were running around in my head, so many things. "What? I have wide feet?" "I never thought I had wide feet?" "God, I'm so miserable and soaking wet", "Hey, who the #@*% does he think he is saying that to me!"
All I could get out was a very loud "WHAT?!"
I'm sorry Miss Manner, I'll do better next time.