I was standing in line in the drugstore this evening and up walked a father with his 10 year-old son. And what did the 10 year-old boy have on? A t-shirt that said "I wish my babysitter were a HOOTER girl." I was quietly appalled.
I hear the most amazing stories, as an EQ coach (and see and hear things when I'm out and about) that corroborate the latest studies showing that the majority of US citizens are concerned about the growing rudeness in America.
One woman's boss considers it appropriate to strip down to his boxer shorts once the business day has begun.
In another office, the senior partner has a brain tumor, and is incontinent, and doesn't care. "For what I pay them," he snarls, "they can watch me pee my pants."
I "dine" in a booth at a restaurant and am assaulted by the kindergartner in the booth behind me, who screams, throws food, and keeps trying to leg his way over to my side.
My friend Anita has started a new job. The woman in the cubby next to her burns scented candles and plays loud music on her radio. When asked to cease and desist, she claims seniority.
I receive a receipt from a fast food restaurant, and for some odd reason actually read it. There it is: "F*** you for eating at XXX"” it says across the top, a manager's nightmare. I am not making that up!
I move into the audience at a cruise presentation I'm giving, and sit down to work with a gentleman. He tells me he's too "sexually turned on (by moi?)" to concentrate.
What is Rudeness?
Rudeness is something upsetting. It's something that assaults our "space." We can't escape from the sight of other people, nor their odors, their noises, nor, should it come to that, their bodies or parts thereof. As they say in the Supreme Court, "your right to swing your arm ends at the end of my nose."
But there are other things more frequent and more invasive than fisticuffs, and our personal "space" extends beyond our noses.
It IS Brain Science
Now, since I'm an EQ coach, let's do a little brain science here. We "are" our brains and our emotions. We like to feel good, and we hate to feel bad. We don't like to get angry; we like to be soothed. We hate insults; we adore compliments. We like to be able to concentrate and think. We don't like to be disturbed and interrupted. A single noise at too high a decibel level can render us immediately deaf, but too much time in a sensory deprivation chamber drives us nuts.
Like Goldilocks, we don't like to be too cold or too hot; we like to be "just right."
We like our brain waves around beta and alpha. Beta is the normal waking consciousness, associated with concentration, arousal, alertness, and cognition. However ... at the higher levels it's associated with anxiety. Too much arousal is not a good thing.
When we can relax into the alpha range, we feel really good. This is the "twilight" state between sleeping and waking. It's relaxed focus at its higher levels, and causes increase in serotonin production -- the "feel good" chemical. This is when you stare at a sunset, play with the baby, listen to beautiful music, or get a massage. (The other two are theta, dreaming sleep; and delta, dreamless sleep.)
Our optimal state is just going about our business, in pleasant surroundings. Rudeness is anything that jars us; anything that puts us into too high a state of arousal. It is ideal that we could stay in equilibrium. It is rudeness to be thrust out of it.
Being RUDE isn't just saying certain words, it's failing on any number of levels to RESPECT the other person -- their thoughts, feelings, body, and soul.
What assaults us most are things that go directly to the reptilian brain -- things that trigger sex or aggression. There you are quietly enjoying your bagel and coffee and someone shoves past you, mouthing "Move it ass****" and you start churning stomach acid, yes?
Rudeness is a violation of the other person's sensibilities, but the line is blurred and varies. It's like your mom told you about sex -- it's not that you can't do it, it's when, where, how, and with whom.
Learn How to Behave in Public
Studying Emotional Intelligence with an EQ coach can help you determine what's appropriate and what isn't. There are things appropriate to intimate relationships that don't work in the work place, and things that are appropriate in private, that are not appropriate in public. As the saying goes, "We never grow up, we just learn how to behave in public."
It's okay to scratch where it itches when you're home alone. When you do it in front of me, in a store, it's rude.
Be particularly respectful of the things we can't defend ourselves against. Your words we can defend against -- tell you to stop, counter, or leave. Your body odor, in an elevator? There isn’t much we can do, and it's offensive.
Be particularly mindful in forced situations (if you share an office, for instance) and of those who are helpless (is it just "rude" to smoke in the car with a toddler?) and of those you can assault the most because you live with them (like your marital partner).
Here are the areas to watch out for, and examples of rudeness:
-- a. Uncurbed cell phone use
-- b. Strident and harsh tones of voice
-- c. Talking too much or too loudly
-- d. Nervous habits -- scraping nails on a blackboard, tongue-clicking, finger tapping, throat clearing, humming, talking to yourself out loud
-- e. Playing music inappropriately
-- f. Misbehaving pets and children -- a dog that barks all night long; children out of control in a restaurant
-- g. Unpleasant voice -- cackling laugh, nasal twang
-- h. Wheezing, coughing, gagging, snoring, snorting, burping, farting
-- i. Inappropriate crying or laughing
-- j. Disturbing someone's sleep
-- k. Loud noises -- honking horn, banging desk or cabinet, scraping chair, slamming books, fist, or door
-- a. Fidgeting, banging, bouncing, swaying
-- b. Moving too fast (don't startle people) or too slow ("Sunday drivers")
-- c. Any unwanted body contact – hugging, hitting, touching
-- d. Physical harm to another
-- e. Standing too close
-- a. Body odor
-- b. Bad breath
-- c. Too strong cologne in closed quarters
-- d. Burning incense, scented candles, cigarette or cigar smoke
-- e. Food -- bringing sauerkraut into the break room, or sardines
-- a. Exposing body parts inappropriately -- cleavage, butt cracks
-- b. Unclean or unkempt
-- c. Inappropriate apparel
-- d. Inappropriate self-grooming in public -- cleaning your ears, scratching your genitalia, picking your nose
-- e. Gestures and expressions -- rolling eyes, sneering, giving the finger, glowering
-- f. Nervous tics and mannerisms -- biting your lip, playing with your hair
-- g. PDA (public displays of affection)
-- a. Profanity
-- b. Inappropriate sexual references
-- c. References to body processes and elimination
-- d. Provocation -- saying things designed to arouse (controversial issues such as race, religion, politics, and sex)
-- e. Gossip
-- f. Complaining, whining, catastrophizing
-- g. Inappropriate self-disclosure (traumas, addictions, your sex life)
-- h. Badgering, belaboring, pontificating, or boring others. Know when is enough.
-- i. Put downs, degrading, insulting, bullying
-- j. Offering unsolicited advice
-- k. Monopolizing air time
-- l. Ignoring someone
-- a. Negativity
-- b. Hostility
-- c. Self-pity, victimization
-- d. Shame and blame
-- e. Complaining without taking or offering action
-- f. Attacking
-- g. Copping an attitude
-- h. Anxiety without boundaries
7. Body Fluids
-- a. Spitting, slobbering
-- b. Coughing
-- c. Sneezing
-- d. Touching someone else's food, or drinking from their cup
-- e. Unwanted kissing
-- f. Coming to work sick
In essence, picture a space around yourself and around the other. Be good to that space. Treat it with respect.
The Golden Rule
How do you know what's respectful? Empathy. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Let it All Hang IN
Somewhere along the way, "let it all hang out" got out of control. We now need to protect ourselves from one another. Your emotional state, for instance, needn't be commented upon continually. Nor do we need to know intimate details about your sex life. War stories afflict the hearer as much as the original recipient. Advice and opinions are best received when invited. Depression is depressing.
It isn't all about you. It's about you and the others in your environment. Don't "Jaba the Hut" others. Stay in your space.
Space violations engender negative emotions. Emotional management is Emotional Intelligence.
Correllary: When you develop your own Emotional Intelligence, your world will become less rude. Rudeness is a closed feedback loop. People become rude because they've been treated badly, and then they turn around and do the same thing. When you've been assaulted with too much rudeness too long, you become hostile. You quit caring about the other.
Change Yourself, Change Your World
Clients often tell me after EQ work with me, how much nicer people are. There are some people who are inveterately rude, it's true, but there are other people who are reacting to what's coming at them. When you've learned to manage yourself, and those around you, you naturally elicit respect.
Stop the Madness
So how do we stop this epidemic of rudeness? Start with yourself. Take a look at the list and see how you're doing.
Then start being POLITE. It's from the Latin "polished" – smooth, round, with no rough edges.
According to m-w [Merriam-Webster], it means "showing or characterized by correct social usage; marked by an appearance of consideration, tact, deference, or courtesy; marked by a lack of roughness or crudities."
Practically speaking? Hold the door open for someone. Say "please," "thank you," "excuse me," and "may I?" Turn off the cell phone. Modulate your voice. Don't force your opinions on others. Smell good. Talk nice. Be considerate.
And work with an EQ coach!
Susan Dunn, M.A., Psychology, is an Emotional Intelligence Coach. Visit her site at www.susandunn.cc for coaching, Internet courses, and ebooks on emotional intelligence for career, relationships, transitions, resilience, personal, and professional development. To receive a free ezine, contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.© 2006 Susan Dunn, M.A.
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