7 Ways to Combat the "Rudeness Epidemic"

Monday, April 23, 2018

There's an ongoing problem in my neighborhood, where parking is at a premium: People keep parking in front of other people's driveways. In some cases, their cars hang over the driveway juuuust a little bit; in the most egregious cases, they block the driveway entirely.

A few weeks ago, I pulled into a small spot of curb between two neighbors' driveways. I wasn't sure if my car would fit, so I put it in park & got out to see if I needed to adjust or park elsewhere. As I started to get out of my car, my neighbor started gesturing wildly at me.

"Come on!" he shouted. "My neighbor is 80 years old! He's gotta be able to get out of his driveway!"

"I was just seeing if my car fit!" I yelled back, incensed. "I'm your other neighbor! I'm not going to park here if I don't fit! Give me a minute to figure it out!"

I was so mad at this guy. I've called to have multiple cars towed for blocking my own driveway; I'm not going to block someone else's! My neighbor couldn't have known that, or my intentions to readjust if I didn't fit into the spot, but I was so peeved about being shouted at that it impacted my whole day - & the way I feel about him when I see him out & about now.

I was reminded of this story when I listened to a recent episode of the podcast Part-Time Genius titled "Are We in the Middle of a Rudeness Epidemic?"

Danny Wallace, author of F You Very Muchcame on the podcast to discuss how being on the receiving end of rudeness impacts us on a psychological level that influences our physical actions. For example, doctors who experienced rudeness the morning of their shift were less likely to aptly treat their patients that day. Crazy, right?!

Rudeness occupies such space in our brains that it can truly distract & upset us.

So, is there anything we can do about it?

Fortunately, the same studies found that just as rudeness can negatively impact us, so can politeness positively impact us. Perhaps the solution to combating rudeness, then, is, quite simply, to practice kindness.

With that in mind, here are a few of my go-to ways to better someone's day.

1. Be thankful. 

It's that simple. Say "thank you" to individuals who help you, including the bus driver, the usher at a sporting events, the barista who makes your latte, & the coworker who responds to your email quickly & helpfully. Literally, just saying "thank you" can brighten someone's entire disposition.

2. Mail kindness. 

Send a handwritten note to a friend - or even a care package, if you want to go big! Visit Pretty by Post for snail mail ideas of Greetabl to send easy care packages entirely online (& click that referral link for 15% off).

3. Smile at somebody. 

When I was 11, I made my first visit to NYC, & a friend, who was a native New Yorker, chastised me: "Did you just smile at a stranger?!" she panicked. Why, yes. Yes, I did. "Never smile at a stranger in New York City!" I'm 33 now, & this lesson has stuck with me - but I continue to do the opposite

4. Be patient. 

As Ferris Bueller once said, "The world moves pretty fast," & sometimes our default is to be annoyed with slowness. Instead of rolling your eyes when a line is taking forever or assuming the worst about the person who went out of turn at a stop sign, take a breath, give a smile or a wave, & let it go. Are you really in such a hurry that you can't be a decent person to someone else?

5. Pay it forward. 

Let someone cut you in line at the grocery store when you have a full cart & they only have two items. Leave a slightly bigger-than-usual tip for your harried server. Let that mom with two wild kiddos go ahead of you at Starbucks.

6. Leave a nice comment on social media. 

Don't just hit that "like" button & move along. Take the time to tell someone they're inspiring you, or that you love their smile, or that you're sending them good vibes on a bad day. In a world full of trolls, be the opposite.

7. Share a positive review. 

You'd be surprised how far a positive review can go, especially for service workers. Write a five-star Yelp review, rave on TripAdvisor about the concierge who made your trip that much better, or take it a step further & even report good service to a manager.

These are all so basic, I know - but if you take the time to really prioritize kindness, you'll find that it is pretty basic. Tell me: What acts of kindness am I missing? And when's the last time rudeness really riled you up? 

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