How to Reverse Rudeness in 2018
“Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength.” Eric Hoffer
We hear a lot about rudeness these days, but what does it actually mean? How bad has it gotten? And what can we do to reverse it?
While the degree of rudeness we experience varies from person to person, one thing is certain: rudeness is on the rise—at work, at home, on our roads, and in our communities. From Twitter tirades to unprecedented allegations of workplace harassment and ever-worsening vitriol and road rage, there’s no shortage of practical evidence proving that point.
And that’s backed up by formal statistics, which are outlined in the recently released 2017 Civility in America report from Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate in partnership with KRC Research. This study shows that 75% of respondents are in agreement with the statement “Incivility in America has risen to crisis levels,” and 56% expect incivility to worsen. These findings correlate with the “hands up” surveys I’ve been doing with Canadian audiences for years. Clearly, rudeness isn’t geographically selective.
What does rudeness mean?
Simply put, rudeness means behaving or speaking in objectionable or offensive ways. The “Big Three” components of rudeness are incivility, unprofessionalism, and disrespect.
The thing is, each of us has a different interpretation of what objectionable or offensive means. We also have varying thresholds for what some refer to as “unbecoming” comments and conduct.
What can we do about it?
Try as we might, it’s pretty hard, if not downright impossible, to change other people. What we can do, however, is inspire others to modify their behaviour by changing our own. And there’s no better way to begin than taking steps to decrease the disharmony so many of us are experiencing.
With that goal in mind, here are six suggestions for reversing rudeness in 2018.
1. Set high standards
None of us can afford to wait for others to tell us how to present ourselves—verbally, physically, or electronically. In order to be successful in our personal and professional lives, we need to set our own standards. And we need to set them high.
I suggest creating a personalized list of guiding principles. It doesn’t need to be a long list, 4 or 5 points will do. Consider categories like Branding (how you’ll express your authentic self), Communication (how you’ll connect and correspond with others), Boundaries (how you’ll recognize and declare your limits), Socializing (with whom and where you will and won’t go), and Privacy (what is sacred vs. what you’ll share).
Having those principles fleshed out empowers us to stand up for ourselves when faced with challenging circumstances or outstanding opportunities. It also sets an internal radar, which will intuitively alert us to situations that are out of alignment with our core beliefs.
2. Honour all commitments
It can be challenging to honour every commitment we make, but doing so is vital if we want to gain a reputation for being reliable. Honouring a commitment means more than just showing up on time. It also involves being prepared, declaring our expectations, and doing what we say we’ll do, when we say we’ll do it. Every. Single. Time.
Here’s an example. You’re concluding a meeting with someone and agree to send them a vital document in the next few days. You could say, “I’ll get that to you some time next week.” But you’ll be much more likely to actually complete that task if you change that statement to something more specific, such as, “You can expect that report in your inbox by Thursday at noon.” The first is a comment. The second is a commitment. As soon as you verbalize that date and time, put it in your calendar. You’ll be amazed by how much your proclivity for procrastination abates.
3. Put boundaries around E-vailability
The omnipresent swirl of social media is taking a toll. Many of us are losing sleep, losing relationships, and—most importantly—losing sight of what truly matters in life. We can start reversing this trend by cutting some of the virtual cords that are simultaneously distracting, distressing, and destroying us.
We’ve allowed ourselves to become tethered to a virtual reality 24/7/365.Those of us who are caught up in the self-imposed and incessant need to be electronically connected will benefit tremendously by checking out and calming down, even if it’s only for a few moments at a time.
And then there’s the double emotional whammy of digital drama and cyber-snark. People are getting tired of all the nastiness, sarcasm, belittlement, and vulgarity. Let’s shift the balance and start looking into more eyes than we do screens. And then let’s go even further by taking a collective step away from our devices to give our hearts and minds a break. If we can free ourselves from simulated clouds and allow our souls escape to real ones, we’ll soon find that Cloud 9 isn’t that far away.
4. End gossip
Isn’t it awful to be around someone who’s always talking trash about others in their absence? It can lead to some very awkward moments. Been there, felt that.
If we want to reverse rudeness we need to take a united stand against gossip. This can be so easy to do!
Here’s a simple gossip hack: The word gossip begins with the letters G-O. We can STOP gossip if we simply get up and GO when it starts. Because even just listening to gossip makes us silent partners in the damage it can cause.
We can also halt negative discussions by resetting the tone. When people are talking about someone who isn’t present, simply say, “I’m uncomfortable talking about Sam when he’s not around to chime in. Let’s table this discussion until he’s here.” This strategy applies even if the prattler is sharing good news that isn’t theirs to share. If the conversation continues, excuse yourself and leave.
Our sense of time has shifted in this era of instant communication. It often feels like we’re in a race to express our point of view, and we sometimes do so without thinking things through.
The solution? Pause. Even a second or two can shift our perspective and, potentially, our future. And during that pause, we can flex our empathy muscles by actively listening more—not only to what others are saying, but to our own internal wisdom as well.
Pausing also allows us to the opportunity to review some of our previous words, behaviours, and attitudes. When we mess up, we need to fess up. Always be willing to offer a genuine apology, and actually use the words I’m sorry when doing so. Those two simple words mean so much more than a vague statement like, “I apologize if you misunderstood what I said.” That’s not an apology; it’s a cop-out.
6. Be kind
For years my personal motto has been, “When in doubt, choose kindness.” This adage has served me well and shaped all of my relationships. I highly recommend giving it a try.
Whenever we feel unsure about what to do or say, it’s best to simply take the action that feels most kind. Let’s say, for example, a new neighbor has moved in down the street. The easy action if we see them as we pass by might be to avoid eye contact and keep going. But the kind action is to stop briefly to say hello and welcome them to the ‘hood.
Reversing rudeness isn’t hard, but it does take effort. Most of us are good-hearted, respectful people. Yet we still get distracted by gadgetry, overwhelmed by schedules, and frustrated by unprofessionalism. Let’s work together to change that. Slow down, look up, and when in doubt, choose kindness. If we all take these simple actions, we’ll see a sea of change in 2018.