Rudeness in America

Rudeness in America

America in 2016 tolerates a level of rudeness way beyond what we used to.  Some of the reasons for this are:

  1. The biggest factor is low self esteem. Our current culture of victimization (where anything bad is someone else’s fault) creates low self esteem, and if you don’t respect yourself, you don’t respect others
  2. the “plugged into my phone” generation doesn’t pay attention to what is around them, which creates accidental rudeness opportunities regularly
  3. the more anonymous people are, the more they will be rude.  Its harder to be rude in person, but phone calls, email, text, social media, in your car, playing a connected video game, letters, AND through authority figures so you don’t have to face the person directly, people are much more comfortable with being rude
  4. our “multi-tasking” culture, which is partly related to cell phones, but is also related to our general cultural expectations at the moment, expects people to do multiple activities all day long (which does NOT work by the way).   Because we are attempting to multi-task, we feel rushed all the time, which leads to “damn everyone else, I have too much to do”  I mean, how many people say “this was a crazy week” these days?  Most Americans have no idea what a true crazy week is.

Two days ago, my patience for rudeness was pushed to the limit.  And ironically, it all came from old women.  It inspired me to add a blog page to track rudeness events here: Now, for the story.

First, I was early for a doctor appointment, so I decided to stop in to a coffee shop to get a hot tea.  This particular coffee shop has a small parking lot, and it was full.  You can park across the street and cross traffic, but I wasn’t in a hurry, so I circled the lot and found someone getting in to their car.  It was the only imminent parking spot to become available.  I patiently waited for the spot, clearly in view of new customers entering the lot, with my signal on, and yet immediately as this customer pulled out of the spot, a car driven by two old ladies pulled in to it.  A actually hit my horn, which I might do once per year, but I guess they were hard of hearing; they were completely oblivious yapping away instead of paying attention to their driving.  When I saw they were old ladies, any desire to speak to them evaporated (I mean, you can’t yell at old ladies, you just can’t).  I was still annoyed, but I pulled across the street, parked, and then crossed traffic to get to the coffee shop.

Once in the coffee shop, this particular shop has three registers.  They are a bit close together, but still there are three of them.  As I walk up, those same two ladies are standing there staring at the menu unable to decide what they want.  I have no problem with them taking their time, but the two of them were standing shoulder to shoulder blocking all three registers while reading off every item from the menu behind (one of them was rather large)  They were talking with a patient employee at register one, and finally a young girl working register three looks at me as asks me for my order while dumb and dumber are talking forever.  I place my order, she asks me for my frequent buyer card, I hand it to her over the shoulder of one of the old ladies, but the old lady still doesn’t comprehend she is in the way being rude.  The girl hands me back the frequent buyer card, and I start to hand her my debit card.  Apparently, the employees aren’t allowed to touch customer credit/debit cards anymore, so I have to pay with the self swipe credit card machine, which the old lady is still blocking.  The girl asks the old lady to move; nope, still oblivious.  I say loudly “excuse me” right into her ear from about 18 inches away; STILL oblivious.  Finally, the employee waiting on them at register one visually waves them to move over, and they FINALLY get it and get the hell out of the way.

So, at this point, I figure I’m done with old lady rudeness for the day, right?  Wrong.  That evening, I went into a grocery store to buy two items, and when I walk up to the checkout, an older man (50’s/60’s) is standing in line with all the items already scanned.  At first I wasn’t sure why he hadn’t paid yet, but then all the sudden, an woman pushes me out of the way to walk up and scan two items she apparently forgot.  She was the wife of the guy waiting.  This is like 8 pm at night, the grocery store was not very busy, no long lines, and it was pretty quiet.  The woman didn’t say ANYTHING to me, ask me to move, or even say “excuse me” when she pushed me to the side.  Really?  The coffee shop ladies were most likely just clueless; their rudeness was accidental, but this woman’s rudeness was on purpose.

So the bigger question is, what should we do in these situations when we encounter rudeness?  We have a few options:

  1. say something to them
  2. ignore them and bitch about it to your friends or on social media
  3. ignore them and immediately forget about it

If you don’t know the person, then #1 is almost never a good choice.  This whole “don’t be a hater” culture, which is partly related to self esteem, is a cowardly way of saying “if you disagree with me, you are wrong” without saying it.  Few people will admit they are wrong, even to people they trust, so saying something to a perfect stranger rarely has a chance of getting them to change their behavior.  As long as their rudeness doesn’t prevent you from doing something important, its best to let it go and not say anything.

There are exceptions:

  1. if it is related to your business (i.e, a restaurant manager dealing with rude customers), then you not only can but should deal with it.  Every business has A, B, C, and D customers, and a good business owner constantly gets rid of D customers.
  2. if you are with kids, then you can use it as a teaching opportunity.  This may mean talking to them so that the rude person overhears, but so be it.  Teaching kids proper behavior is the way to eliminate the cultural rudeness over time.  If the rude person overhears and gets snotty, tell them you weren’t talking to them and keep up with the lesson for the kids.
  3. if its someone you know, then that’s a different story (and by “know”, I mean have a personal connection.  If you know of them but barely have a relationship, treat them like you would a stranger).  Depending on how close you are with that person, you can go from a polite “that was not nice” to an all out “what the hell is wrong with you”.  If they are worth keeping in your life, then they can take the comment.  If they go postal on you, then time to get them out of your life.
  4. if its a kid that you have authority over (either your kids, or your students if you teach, or your players if you coach, or your scouts if you are a Troop Leader, etc), then your ethical code mandates you should take the opportunity to deal with it.

Other than those exceptions, just LET IT GO.

Now, if we let it go, then that takes us back to our original decision.  Do we 2) ignore them but bitch about it later, or 3) ignore them and immediately let it go and relax?

I know the general theory right now is that you should “let it out” and not bottle up emotions.  I agree with that, IF the emotion is about a serious issue.  But all this griping, bitching, moaning, and complaining that goes on today in person and via social media has to stop.  Now, if you truly aren’t annoyed, and can tell the story in a funny light, then have at it and spread the joy.  But if all you are doing is complaining to someone in a negative way, stop it.

Not complaining requires discipline.  I am not a big complainer externally, but internally, I do get annoyed frequently with other peoples behavior.  The coffee shop incident annoyed me for about 15 minutes.  Then I got over it until the grocery store lady later that night.  And honestly, I was tempted to bitch about it on social media, but I refrained.  Give it time, and all wounds heal, right?

I have pretty good control over not externalizing my bitching, but I still get the emotional response that sucks negative energy from me.  I could join a group of monks at a monastery and perfect control of my emotions (not likely to happen anytime soon), or I could try something else.  So today, I decided to start trying a psychological trick to stop the emotional response.  Whenever I encounter a negative situation of small significance, I say outloud “Pink Floyd”.  Why?  Its impossible to think about or listen to Pink Floyd without being mellow.  I attended a Pink Floyd concert years ago:  120,000 people, and not a one was irate 🙂

So, on the way to the coffee shop this morning, not surprisingly I got stuck behind two people driving 40 mph side by side on a road with a 50 mph speed limit with no traffic in front of them for a mile.  My first words were “you #%@# moron, get out of the”, but immediately, I remembered my commitment, and said “Pink Floyd” out loud.  It had an immediate effect.  I had to say it 3 more times, but it worked.  I recall one of Tony Robbins lessons where he said “try standing up tall, smiling from ear to ear, and yet still be mad”.  My Pink Floyd strategy is similar; I’m trying to break my mental pattern.  Once is not a habit; I need to do it 21 days in a row to make it a habit.  But there is hope!

So, the next time you encounter rudeness, think of something that makes you relax or happy, and focus on it.  The start of eliminating rudeness is to counter it with positive energy.

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