Rudeness: An Epidemic


I wrote a similar article a little over 8 years ago, and it went viral. And amazingly, this issue of rudeness has done nothing but grow as an almost ‘acceptable’ way of life. I, for one, am standing TALL in opposition to this silent – yet quite pervasive – epidemic.

The reality of rudeness flies in the face of the many books written of late about emotional intelligence (EQ), building your brand, learning and leveraging your strengths, learning your personality type and how this effects your work – the list goes; yet, so many of us have simply lost the basics.

A few of my executive colleagues have actually said to me: I don’t have time to call them back; they will have to just get over it I shouldn’t have to say thank you to them for doing their job; that is their job I am in a hurry;

I simply don’t have time to listen to all that history and detail. Just give me what I want and stop telling me all this #JK%H that I don’t need or want to hear. The way I look at it, we are here to make a profit for our shareholders, at the end of the day, it is not about how nice we are to each other it is about delivering the bottom line.

- FWBP Digital Partners -

Well, this is where I draw the line. Who said all these things were mutually exclusive? There is a clear distinction between being rude and being in a hurry and having different priorities. There is also a clear distinction between telling the truth and telling the truth rudely. Since when do we have to be ‘rude’ to get our jobs done?

And why are we allowing this to become the ‘new way’ of conducting business? (Is this the role model we want to give the younger generation? Think about how we feel when they answer us in a less than respectful tone? Pretty hot!) At this point, many of you are fast forwarding through this blog, muttering ‘of course we don’t have to be rude or even really want to be rude, yet sometimes it just happens.’

Or, my favorite response when I told someone I was going to re-publish and updated a blog about this: “Come on, Kristin, you need to grow a tougher skin, people are just running so fast and are so busy this is not about you, they are just thinking about their own lives and responsibilities. If it doesn’t fit into their schedule of priorities you can’t take this personally.” So to set this record straight, I get it.

But, that is precisely the point! When did we allow this to become the new norm? Yes, there have always been rude people; and yes, there probably always will be. However, in our electronic world of increasing impersonalization, we have made it so much easier.

- Advertisement -

We can, however, change this gravitational pull, (if that is what we want, and we should, given our global work environment). I also believe, on a grander scale, being conscious of not being rude can absolutely lay the foundation for a better culture, stronger work relationships, a more cohesive team, better results, and frankly, a happier lifestyle. Sure, this is basic. Who says the greatest gems to facilitate change and foster collaboration have to be complex theories or methodologies based on complicated assessments?

So, this month to our fabulous Posse of Powerful Plaid Women, I am offering 5 basic things to remember, which I believe will help us all improve the ‘rudeness factor’ in our lives – professionally and personally – and I believe improve many other aspects in our lives, as well. I think WE CAN CHANGE the course of this movement…together!

Stop interrupting!! Curb the impulse to cut folks off. Often we do this because we believe what we have to say is more important. Or we believe we already know what they are going to say. Or we don’t want to (or care to) hear what they are going to say. Or we just think they are ‘slow or dumb’ and they are wasting your time. Or we are actually trying to support what the person is saying – so we zealously jump in mid-stream. Whatever the reason – this is just rude. Personally, I am guilty of interrupting on occasion – and yet, I also hate to be interrupted. So – a little practice I am trying, is when I feel the urge to interrupt, I take a sip of whatever I have in my hand (coffee, water, wine, etc.) and just focus on the moment. It is amazing how this has helped me to stop cutting people off in mid-sentence. I am hoping this will become a natural habit for me or I will become waterlogged or drunk!

Just return the phone call! No need to belabor this one, we just need to call people back – promptly. It is simply not that hard. Even if we don’t want what they are selling, we don’t support the cause they are pushing, or we just really don’t want to talk to them; why can’t we just call back and be honest, or worst case leave a polite, responsive voice mail message for them? Many folks know I have expanded my portfolio career to include a direct sales offering (which is awesome, I might add). I am APPALLED at how many folks will IGNORE my calls. In fact, for every ten calls made, I may get 1-2 returned.

- Advertisement -

How refreshing it is to have someone call back – even if they are not interested in what I am sharing. In my other business, I have unfortunately also been the recipient of quite rude behavior of late. In one case, several emails and voice mails went unanswered for about 2 weeks. What is that about?! Needless to say, my attitude toward the person when I finally reached him was compromised, to say the least. Ironically, I was actually going to introduce this business associate into an opportunity!! When we finally connected, frankly, I had changed my mind. You see – we never know, do we?

Listen, really listen. This actually goes right along with the stop interrupting suggestion. You know, most people simply want to be heard. We want to share, to lament, to debate, to explore and through all this, to actually have someone listen to what we have to say. I wish I had a nickel for all the conversations I have watched when I see the person either looking at their watch, multi-tasking, or juggling papers.

There have also been times when I can almost see the wheels turning in their heads of what they are going to say next ! There is an art to listening, of truly being in the moment with the other person, looking them in the eye, acknowledging what they are saying and asking questions to further explore their positions. There are very few of us who really have mastered the art of listening, of hearing the unspoken word. When we have had that experience we don’t forget it easily. It feels so great to believe someone actually is interested in what we are saying. What I have also observed, is when we are the recipient of a kind listener, it is contagious. We want to listen to them. It becomes magnetic. Imagine the power of this with our clients, our prospective customers, our partners, our employees, our husbands, our wives, and our children.

Please, thank you, and I’m sorry. These few words are something most – if not all – of us were taught when we were growing up. These should be the easy ones. Yet, I cannot believe how many interactions I have on email, voice mail and in person where I never hear a please or a thank you. Never. For some reason, this often gets lost in the pressure cooker of life and business. Hard work, dedication, and sacrifice in the workplace (or in other aspects of life, too) are simply taken for granted. I, in fact, had an executive once tell me to not say please and thank you as it softens our message and we may appear weak. Well, I am here to tell you that could not be further from the truth. The strongest and most successful leaders with whom I have worked were the ones that took the time to thank, to acknowledge hard work, to say please and yes … to say “I’m sorry” when a mistake had been made or an injustice had occurred. These few words can turn the most difficult of conversations into the most palatable, most meaningful, and the most inspiring conversations a leader can have. And for heaven’s sake – when you are invited to an event – personal or professional – RSVP! Sure, you may need to regret – yet, RSVP and say THANK YOU. I have hosted many events over the past few years and I would say the RSVP percentage is less than 20%…really?!! It takes NO TIME to simply respond. Do it.

Yes, it is personal – and that does not mean it is all about you. This is like the line from the movie with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan when the large corporate book chain forces the closing of the little shop around the corner, and he says this is “just business, not personal.” Meg Ryan’s character pushed back and said, “I just don’t get that! It may not be personal to you; that is because it is not happening to you.” Precisely. There is a saying, “it is never a big deal until it happens to you.” How true this is! Life is personal. Our interactions are personal. And yes, business is personal – because it consists of interactions between persons. We can and do build great teams, lead incredible transformations and achieve remarkable goals. What I am also certain of is this: we can do none of these things without others. Period. Our personal interactions and relationships are the key to success – personally and professionally. So – I have written this article on being polite, on not being rude, on being kind to each other, on treating others with the respect we each want. Maybe some will think this article is soft and squishy and others may think it is simple and basic. But, it’s my hope that ALL of us will recognize these basics are the building blocks – of respect, of relationships, of partnerships. And, as with all fruitful treasures, that is where the juice is.

Read more at: