Sunday, April 24, 2011

Why Are People So Rude?

We had a lovely family Easter brunch today after church.One of the topics that came up was rudeness.One of our teenage daughters has been working part-time at Disneyland over the spring break from school.She reported that rudeness was extremely common from the guests towards the employees.She understood,because,she explained, the guests have paid so much for admission that they expect a perfect day. Some guests lose their temper over the price of merchandise in the shops,and all she can say is,"I'm sorry". All four of the generations in our family chimed in to agree that people are more short-tempered with others than ever before.Gramps,who has 70 plus years of perspective on societal trends,confirmed that courtesy and kindness have been on the decline for the past twenty to thirty years.

I like the saying that you can tell the size of a man's character by the size of the thing that upsets them.I often think about how adult meltdowns must look to our children. If they are watching Mom or Dad berate sales clerks,what do you suppose they are thinking? Either they must think this is the way to act when you are disappointed, or they must think their parent looks ridiculous. Character is revealed in what behavior we do when you think noone of consequence is watching.

What are the secondary gains from having a temper tantrum? It's one way to release tension.It's easier than hitting the gym or going for a run.It can feel good momentarily to blow off steam at someone who has to take it.It's IMMEDIATE.It's just that later on you realize you overreacted and feel kind of stupid.

This trend toward short-temperedness goes along with the narcissistic bent that society has drifted towards. If it's all about me,then I expect that my needs should be gratified immediately at all times,or I am outraged. Nordstroms' has done a great job of embodying this philosophy of pleasing the customer almost no matter how obnoxious they are. See how the monster of self-importance gets fed?

Life also proceeds at a fast pace now. If we get drive-thru meals and immediate text responses,then waiting in line or being delayed can make people irrate.It's as if results must be instant.In truth,there are many valuable things in life which take patience,gentleness,and self-control.These include parenting,a great love relationship,getting a college degree,and building a career that means something to you.Some things in life are better suited to a slow-cooker than a microwave oven.

Patience and self-control need to be cultivated,just like muscle tone from working out.Putting upsets into perspective can also help.We can stop,breathe,and realize that most things that disappoint or frustrate us are not terminal. They are temporary. We can try to connect with the humanity of the other person or people stuck in a difficult or absurd sitaution with us. We can look for the humor in it. We can remember that the store clerk probably makes minimum wage and is trying the best they can.The clerk probably does not set the prices.

I vote for a little more self-control and a little less rudeness. Maybe, one person and one family at a time,we can turn the tide on the trend of rudeness.Or, perhaps we can build a life raft for the non-rude people who are left and need a sense of community.Being an everyday hero means disposing of your own anger,frustration,and disappointment in a way which is not toxic to others.

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