Rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strenght.
“F**** YOU VERY MUCH. The surprising truth about why people are so rude.” Written by Danny Wallace. Most of the info is taken from his brilliant book about the worldwide epidemic problem – rudeness.
We share bus seats and walk on tight city paths a thousand times a day and we tend to simply ignore the people around us because they just don’t matter. We have our social groups. We are no longer in our delightful teens and early twenties when the very next person who walked into the room could be our new favourite person or BFF. We are older and wiser, we are set in our ways, tired and in a time-poor world strangers become people of no consequence. They are nothing more than meaningless extras in the glorious movie of our lives, to be treated however we feel in the moment. And that’s just a shortcut to rudeness.
Rude people are everywhere.
Every week, one million new people move to the cities of the world. It’s getting a bit crowded. Safe at home, we are in charge of our own environment and rudeness is not generally an issue. But as we leave our private space for public, we understand we’re expected to behave in a different way. We just do. We get it. But in moments where someone bursts our bubble by acting in a way we don’t expect them to, we respond by feeling stressed and we become rude.
Isn’t it funny that even though we know that it’s a public space, we somehow still consider it private. And other people will impact on us, either because they can’t help it, they don’t realize it, or worse – becaused they don’t care about you and your stupid life. Strangers are everywhere, all the time, working to their own standards. Like the stranger who brings a Big Mac meal onto the train so that everyone can watch and hear him eat it while the smell fills the carriage and our noses. The stranger in the coffee queue who tries to nudge in front of you. The stranger who won’t give you space at the cash machine. The stranger who reads your texts over your shoulder or who greedily snatches the newspaper you’ve barely put down. The person at the bus stop who doesn’t care about everyone else who might not want to be passive smokers while the rain in pouring down. Sure it’s your right to smoke, do whatever you want, I couldn’t care less – but don’t smoke at public space where it’s also my right to breath! The disrespectful manspreading! That’s a whole blog for itself.
There’s weirdos who think everyone wants to hear their crappy music from their iphones and loudspeakers, the waiter who makes a point of humiliating you by pretending not to understand why you ordered a ‘panini not a ‘panino’. And the phones! My gosh, the phones. The people on their phones, loudly cackling at gossip or discusing private information or showing off about how important or well-off they are, knowing damn well the whole buss have to listen what they say. Everyone have their heads burried in their phones (I’m guilty to this myself, but I’m trying to exchange it for books), some people wont even look up. Or the guy who just quickley steps out into the road at a zebra crossing while on his phone and won’t even look your way to acknowledge you for not running over him in your car, because he’s on the phone to the friend he’s 30 seconds away from meeting. The woman in the queue for coffee who won’t answer the barista’s simple and necessary questions about her order and will be furious when it arrives slightly wrong, and all because “can’t you see I’m on my phone?” These people are caught up in their own nonsense in a way that means they miss the communal things the rest of are concentrating on, like the movement of a queue or just not getting run over. Phones are particularly curious and are a wonderful micro example of how rudeness works in a city. While they connect us to the world at large, they disconnect us from the world around us.
Rudeness varies from country to country. Like for example the United States which is a country famed for it’s service industry, but what to an American diner is the height of politeness, can to a Swedish or British person seem overbearing and, yes, even a bit rude. The are not being polite to you – they are being polite at you. They dominate, they perform, they interrupt, and though they are only interrupting to check if you are having a nice time or ask where you are from, they are still interrupting. They can lean over you to ask if you need things to make a point of you knowing they are actively getting you what you need. It is performance politeness. It’s ‘Look how polite I am!’ versus being polite. And it comes of a cost, about 20 per cent of your bill. But we have to remember all cultures are different and if we travel we just need to keep that in mind in situations like that.
When a person of little status has real power over you, it can lead to some real dark places and go far beyond rudeness. When all you’re trying to do is ask a question to your depute manager or to get a rule clarified by the security staff at the airport, and it’s immediately taken as a slight. “Don’t question my authority!” Those people can’t hear anything but disrespect. Power allows people to act in whatever way they choose. It’s when status gets involved that things go wrong. Power is having control. But status is the admiration associated with having control. When you lack status, you tend already to feel disrespected. People who feel they have no status often assume you feel the same way about them. The problem is they experience that pretty much every day. So when you come along with your questions, you’re just one more person just like all the others, so any question you ask can easily be perceived as rude and disrespectful. The rude person behind the counter in the Supermarket thinks you’re the rude one, based on a lifetime of experiences. What they don’t understand is that they are helping to create that rudeness from thin air, from how they feel about themselves.
Rude people get ahead.
I always avoid talking about politics, but political correctness needs to be mentioned, it’s a national tragedy that it’s so accepted to ‘ banter’, a form of witless and rude communication. Political correctness in it’s simplest form means choosing your words more carefully. And so there was Trump – a powerful man, a rude man, just saying whatever he felt like during his presidential campaign. Railing against political correctness. Whether if he believed in what he said or not didn’t seem to matter. He just stood there. Shouting rude things. On television. Seemingly making it up, like a mad, drunk old uncle on Facebook. Hopping from one half-thought-out insult to another. He insulted Mexicans by implying many of them were rapist. He did a ‘funny’ Indian accent. He insulted more then half of the world’s population, women, by calling some of them ugly, if they asked him a tough question he implied they were probably menstruating. He did an impression of a disabled journalist with a withered hand, while in the same room as him. He was unpleasant, boorish, thuggish and rude. Anyone that wasn’t him was a loser, a clown, a failure, sad!
“It’s just banter, mate! Get a sense of humour! ”
But look how far he got: President of the United States. People were willing to believe that a man who didn’t seem to know what his next word was going to be, was a man also capable of bringing peace in the Middle East. Why? How?
Rude people get ahead. Rude people don’t find themselves constrained by all the normal rules, they dont have to say please or thank you because, really, what’s in it for them? They don’t care. But the knock-off effect is that the rest if us aren’t appalled, we’re impressed! Rudeness is one of the purest forms of power play, an effective way of controlling a situation, asserting your own superiority and showing other people how very special you are. A brilliant ruling technique among narcissists, psychopaths and many many other people. Remember the kid at school who was rude to the teacher? You’d never do that, would you? But remember how weirdly impressed you were? Trump’s schoolyard bravado was played out in a international playground, and every time he did it, he bought himself more fuel to keep going. It didn’t impede him, it promoted him to the highest office in the world.
We unfairly hold women to higher standards.
So it pays to be rude. I mean we know it does. In every TV show we need someone who is rude, mean, someone who is ‘just being honest’. Remember rude people also tend to earn more because they dare to ask for it. If you are a rude woman, however, it’s nothing compared to being a rude man. Rude woman earn 5 per cent more then nice women. But a rude man will earn 18 per cent more then a nice woman. Hang on though, because that still means that even if you’re a rude woman, and you’re the best rude woman at being rude, you will still earn 13 per cent less then a rude man! Even in the world of rudeness the equality is behind. It’s also been found that men interrupt, cut off and take over in conversations approximately twice as much as women do. Not just that, but men are almost three times more likely to interrupt a woman as they are a man. Men are also more likely to be reviewed on their business results while women are more likely to be reviewed on their personalities. While a man will hear that he has a strong personality, which is great, maybe you should just slow down and listen sometimes, then you will achieve more. A woman on the other hand will hear that she’s a bitch, she’s aggressive, too much and rude. We unfairly hold women to higher standards when it comes to rudeness (unfortunately it’s not only with rudeness). For a women to speak up and stand out is enough to make people nervous and incite character assassinations.
Paul Ford, a writer, has spent years considering exactly what happens to us when we sit in front of a keyboard or reach for our phones in the face of any minor slight, whether it’s to complain about costumer service or to scream about the TV hosts jumper or makeup. The internet feeds us with the need to be heard. To be heard about anything and everything. Whether we actually care about it our not. Sanna Nielsen, a talented Swedish singer and TV host was holding our Christmas celebration at TV, people went crazy online about her jumper and makeup. Which I by the way really liked. I thought she looked beautiful. Which by the way isn’t the point.
‘She looked like a slut, how could she wear so much makeup, the shirt looked like a straitjacket, she didn’t have any taste…’ The comments just continued. Of course it’s fine to not agree with someone’s taste, but that’s not the point. The problem lies in that people have a need of expressing EVERYTHING they think today online. At home in their couch they comment on people’s Facebook and Instagram, people wrote to Sanna Nielsen how slutty she looks in that makeup and how horrible her shirt was, but would they have said that if they met her? Would they feel the same need to comment it? Absolutely not! When you meet someone, you might think to yourself that you don’t like that shirt but you wouldn’t say it. That would be totally rude and no one does that. But what makes it okey online? The fact that these people think their negative and rude comments should be heard and seen by everyone just says a lot about today’s problem of people having a need of expressing EVERYTHING they feel online. Wouldn’t it be nicer if the people that liked it wrote a nice comment and the people who didn’t like her jumper could maybe just focus on the fact that she was a great TV host or maybe not comment at all. You don’t have to open your mouth about everything. (Sidenote, if it was a man, would people still go mad about his clothes and his look…)
We often say that teenagers are the most rude ones but that has a simple explanation. Teenagers don’t yet have enough of the white matter that connects the frontal lobe with the rest of their brains. They are not able to fully appreciate the consequences of their actions or words on other people. It doesn’t make sense yet, i doesn’t matter yet. Politeness is all about empathy. It’s about understanding that there is another person, and that in their world they matter just as much as you do in yours. It comes with time, teenagers can be rude because they’ve not had time to grow out if it yet. And then some never do. Studies shows that teenagers who were particulary rude and argumentative often stayed that way into adulthood. Actually it’s not teenagers who are the worst, studies show it’s people between 33 and 44. We instinctively think of the youth today as being the problem. Grown-ups are literally ten times ruder. Maybe we should give our teens a break for their narcissism and instead take a long hard look in the mirror ourselves.
‘I’m just being honest.’
Whether famous or at school, rude people have found a way to say whatever they like, as long as they claim it as honesty. You can’t argue with honesty. But it’s not honesty. For example, Sandra is not a bitch. You are saying that Sandra is a bitch, that’s your opinion. With the honesty clause, we have tricked ourselves into thinking that we somehow have to take people’s opinions as facts. Because then we have to applaud that person for having the guts to just say it like it is. But we know that isn’t just saying it like it is. You’re not only ‘being honest ‘, you’re stating an opinion and shutting down the conversation. It shows a lack if confidence in your own argument. You don’t want to talk about it any further, you just want to reach for the high ground. You have nothing more to say. You’re not ‘just saying it like it is’ – you’re being a dick and asking people to praise you for it. (Sorry I’m ‘just being honest here’). More then often these ‘honesty’ statements aren’t challenged and that comes from fear. Fear of being the next person who will receive an ‘honest’ assassement. Fear of our own less strongly held opinions. We admired those with confidence, we invite them to be our bosses and to lead or countries.
If you’re only saying what everyone else is thinking – then maybe consider why they’re only thinking it.
How can we fight rudeness?
Ordinarily, what civilized human beings desire is justice. If someone kills our dog, we want justice. We don’t want to kill that person’s dog. If someone burgles or house, or first thought isn’t to try and burgle them back. But if someone is rude to you, it’s not justice we immediately think of. We want to shove their rudeness straight back in their stupid rude face. Fight. We want them to feel the way they made us feel.
Rudeness is a form of rebellion that we must rebel against. Not because it weakens us, but because politeness makes us stronger. And that means that we all must start by saying something. Not just to say we hate rudeness, but to call people out on their terrible behavior wherever we see it happen, the queue for coffee, the passive aggression in the office, the muttered insult to a pensioner.
What’s also important is that we have to understand that civilisation involves being civilised. Don’t go force your power of speech on everyone else. Don’t be so super-sensitive, don’t get offended at everything cause maybe that’s when you start putting yourself in the victim position each day, and suddenly everyone is so rude. Maybe if everone is so rude to me, I should start to think about my own behavior…
Life would be better if we were all better and yet we don’t take rudeness seriouilsy. Why?
Because we find it amusing.
Until we are on the operating table.
Thank you Danny Wallace for your brilliant book.