Has anyone been rude to you today yet? Well, it’s likely that within this week, we will encounter a rude person one way or another before the week is out. Should we turn the other cheek, ignore, and just let our frustrations with this person ferment? Read on, it may be toxic if you do.
For starters, rude behaviour and rude speech have negative effects on our emotional health. Rude behaviour begets rudeness one way or another. The act of being rude or being on the receiving end of rudeness can damage our emotional health and productivity. A rude interruption during a meeting may not end up in an all-out argument or physical confrontation, but there will be subtle ways you respond negatively to the instigator.
Michael P. Leiter, PhD, Professor of Organizational Psychology at Deakin University in Geelong, Australia, defines rudeness. It is when a person behaves in a way that doesn’t align with the way someone else might think is appropriate or civil, “You can’t really assume that the people you’re encountering share your core values about how people should get along.”
Rudeness can be unintentional or intentional. A lot of the rudeness that we encounter is actually unintentional. We see it often here in Bangkok and many large cosmopolitan cities during our daily commute. Everyone seems to be in a hurry and are rushing to get themselves somewhere fast whether it’s in the trains or on the roads and rude behaviour is bound to happen. While making your way through BTS stations and on the trains in the morning rush, bumping into each other without apologising, your weekdays start with emotional stress because of these rude triggers. So being rightfully frustrated, you find yourself elbowing your way into the crowded train.
Or if you’re driving, you are likely to be cut off by a car that is trying to change lanes suddenly. Perhaps they weren’t able to understand what Google maps meant when it announced the left turn 200 meters earlier. You respond by honking and cursing out loud in your car.
Then, there’s intentional rudeness. This kind of person has made it a habit to be rude with the goal of getting attention. Do you notice sometimes that rude people tend to be more confident and stand out? And they may even seem to be more successful because of their outspokenness. There has been a study about how we are actually secretly impressed with them even if we don’t like them. This happens to the extent that we even overlook the rudeness and accept their posturing themselves as a “strong leader”.
Rudeness can be a form of power play, a display of authority, showing “who’s the boss”. Obnoxious rude behaviour sprouts from narcissism and a core belief of entitlement. They believe their agenda is more important than yours and so their time more important than yours. Their rude obnoxiousness sure does get attention. But does it get any real work done? It is indeed a real problem since this kind of behaviour especially from hinders and derails any kind of productivity and kills morale.
Rudeness begets rudeness, because if you believe that rudeness will actually get you somewhere, you may choose adopt this same behaviour. But does this have to be? No, it is in your power to break the cycle.
Here are some ways you can break the cycle of rudeness:
- Be Kind and Smile: As much as you can, be at peace with others for your own peace of mind. You won’t be able to control what rude people do. What you can do is take a deep breath. Refuse to receive their rude behaviour into your emotional tank.
- Call it out: Rudeness left unchecked can fester. Don’t let it. The best way to guard yourself against rudeness stressing you out is to call it out. Tell the person kindly that what they did or said was inappropriate and how it is negatively affecting your relationship and possible team dynamics.
- Be aware of how your behaviour affects others: We all have blindspots and have likely been unintentionally rude and offended others. Becoming more aware of our own actions and how that affects others will result in healthier relationships in all areas of your life.
- Be quick to apologise: Once you are aware of an offence you’ve committed, it’s never too late to apologise even if it’s been months or years. I’ve had an acquaintance apologise for something years after it had happened and I didn’t even remember. I really respect her for having the courage and humility to bring it up.
- Be quick to forgive: When someone apologises to you, be as quick as you can to forgive appreciating the fact that it took them courage and intentionality to come and make amends with you.
- Value decency in speech and actions: Profanities like the f-word seem to be so common lately that its shock-value has pretty much disappeared. It’s been argued that using profane words once in a while may be helpful for example, in coping with pain and expressing anger without resorting to violence. (Stephens et al., “Swearing as a Response to Pain” (NeuroReport, Aug. 2009) But used too often, the effect lessens. There’s a good reason that foul speech is called just that. Such words foul the air and atmosphere in any place. Thought and speech are gifts to us humans and we should be using them to build other up and not tear them down by using foul and unkind language. Especially in professional settings, profanity really doesn’t help your credibility and doesn’t sets a good example for your team.
From the overflow of our hearts is how we speak and express ourselves. If we receive into our hearts and minds that it’s acceptable to be rude to get our way, get attention, and get ahead, then we will naturally overflow rude behaviour and language to others. Now, if we believe in kindness and decency, we will overflow goodness out to the world.
When there are alternative ways to positively motivate those around you, there really is no need to resort to rudeness and profanity. How has someone been rude to you recently and how did you respond?
- P.K. Piff et al, “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109, no. 11 (January 2012): 4086–91 )