Say no to rudeness!
No matter if you’re on public transport, in a queue or just walking in the street, you can’t seem to escape other people’s rudeness. Didier Pleux gives us the lowdown on the social phenomenon of discourtesy and how to handle it.
Did you say rudeness?
Pathological rudeness is everywhere! People are either shouting down the phone on a busy train, or else breezing past you in the queue for the cinema without feeling the slightest bit bad about it. Pedestrians take no notice of traffic lights and just seem to assume you’re going to stop for them. Everyone thinks they own the place – and the problem has now become so widespread that Didier Pleux has written a whole book on the subject.
“Discourtesy is basically egotism in daily life,” says Didier. Some people respond to their needs immediately without stopping to consider others. There’s nothing bohemian or carefree about this — they're just being plain rude, and suiting themselves at the expense of others. It’s a question of social decency.
All those people who talk loudly in public places are just doing it to please themselves. It’s as if you don’t exist! The same goes for queue-jumping and double-parking. The worst offenders used to be in the minority, but now everyone’s doing it...
Why are people rude?
Some sociologists blame our consumer-driven society for this growing phenomenon. But this explanation makes it seem as though rude people are actually victims of society. “They are actually much more in control of the situation than this,” according to Didier. Precocious children were the focus of the author's previous work. In his new book, he turns his attention to what happens when these children grow into rude adults.
“What we’re seeing is an increasing number of self-important individuals who only take care of number one. They are driven by their own desires and won’t put up with not getting their own way — just like children.” It’s as though they’ve drawn a curtain on the rest of the world. In their defence, these people have never learnt to put themselves in other’s shoes. “In actual fact, social connections have to be learnt,” he reminds us. Selfishness is often down to poor relationships with parents, teachers or other important figures in a person’s life.
What to do about rudeness
Other people’s rudeness can be pretty annoying, and you shouldn’t have to put up with it. “We're almost programmed to ignore it,” says Didier – but there are many reasons not to put up with discourteous behaviour. You might be scared of getting a backlash of abuse. You can bet everyone else around you will keep their heads down and not get involved. “However, these are risks you have to take,” our expert insists. Tolerating rudeness will only make the problem worse.
Dealing with other people’s rudeness can also seem like too much of an effort. After a stressful day at work, it can feel like you have enough on your plate without setting the world to rights. “This is a fair point, but remember that if you don’t do anything to stop this behaviour, you actually become complicit in it,” our expert says. When you start to notice all the discourtesy going on around you, you’ll be convinced that this is a social problem that can’t be ignored. If you want to live in a better place then you have to actually make an effort to change things instead of leaving it to someone else.
A better, happier society
So how should we tackle rude behaviour? Here are a few ways to combat everyday discourtesy:
- Speak up! Were you in that queue first? All you have to do is say politely, “Excuse me, I was actually here before you.” Use tried and tested methods of asserting yourself. After all, these people are showing you a lack of respect. Remembering you have a voice is healthy and important in life.
- If someone’s being rude, say so! If he or she has just shoved past you, make them aware of it by saying: “I don’t know if you realise, but you just pushed me out of the way.” Say it as an observation without necessarily looking for an apology. This is just a small way you can stop unacceptable behaviour in public.
- Don’t be afraid of confrontation: You keep quiet most of the time to avoid making the situation worse. But it’s important to get past your fear of confrontation in life. When necessary, conflict can actually be character-building.
- Get involved if it bothers you: If you see someone being rude, don’t think twice about stepping in to stop it. You might think it’s not up to you to do anything, but by voicing your disapproval, you'll bring us all closer to a better, happier society.
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