We have all heard about random acts of kindness, whereby we do something nice for someone we may not even know. But have you heard about random acts of rudeness? Random acts of rudeness are thoughtless behaviors inflicted upon someone we may not know. We see and experience random acts of rudeness every day of our lives. Just yesterday I was in the grocery store and the cashier rang up one of my items wrong. I mentioned to her that the fruit was on sale and she looked at me and rolled her eyes, made a loud sighing noise, and proceeded to correct the price. I ask you, was it necessary for her to editorialize in such a manner? Was it necessary for her to get upset that she had to do a price adjustment? Did she really want me to pay $1.00 more per pound just to lessen her stress? And to top things off, I actually felt guilty for a moment that I caused her discomfort.
I am sure if you stop and think for a moment you can visualize incidents when you might not have been so kind to someone. Perhaps you were having a bad day, or you were in a rush and the cashier was moving too slowly for you, or you were not feeling very well and easily irritated, or you didn’t get enough sleep and you were tired, and the list goes on and on. Realize the issue was with you and not the other person. You were having a bad day, you were in a rush, you were not feeling well, and you did not get enough sleep. Why is it that we take out our daily frustrations on others? More importantly, why do we think it is ok to take that frustration out on others?
I have certainly been guilty of practicing random acts of rudeness. But I like to think that I am big enough to apologize when I am wrong, and that I can be the first to admit when I am wrong. Oftentimes people will misunderstand our words, body language, and such, as an act of rudeness. However our perception of the interaction might be different. Wouldn’t it be better to just acknowledge that the other person felt hurt and apologize for what they perceived, rather than argue semantics?
I would like to propose to all of you to reduce your practice of random acts of rudeness. When you are having a particularly difficult day take note of your behaviors towards others. We all know when we are on edge, and if we all took responsibility for our own behavior, and not look to place blame on someone else for our mood, we might just have a much nicer world to live. I find it especially challenging when someone says to me, "it is your fault that so and so happened," or " I did that because you did this." We all are in control of our thoughts and our actions. We can choose to engage or choose to disengage. When we make the choice to argue we are doing it, no one is forcing us to argue. When we are rude we are making the choice to be rude. It doesn’t matter that we perceive the other person as being the catalyst. What matters is how we choose to handle the confrontation. For many of us, we can see when a situation is getting out of hand and we can take the positive steps to circumvent an emotional explosion. Unfortunately, for many of us, we are not able to see what is going on until we are in the midst of it.
Someone once said, "it is difficult to judge another until you walk in his or her shoes." Perhaps, this is true, however, does it really matter if we understand? I believe that it is not for us to understand; it is just for us to accept each other as whole, complete, and perfect human beings. Maybe if we were more accepting of ourselves we might be able to be more accepting of others.
I leave you with this motto that I have hanging on the wall of my office (and believe me there are many days I just read it over and over again as an affirmation):
Treat everyone with politeness even if they are rude; not because they are nice, but because you are nice.
Linda Rener is a Community College Director of Health Career Programs and the author of Medical Terminology: A Student Workbook, and Memories of My Sister: Dealing With Sudden Death. You can email your comments to Linda.firstname.lastname@example.org.