"Eighty percent of Americans think rudeness is a serious national problem, but 99 percent of the same people say that they themselves are not rude."
That is an alarming, yet surprisingly not shocking, statistic. CNN recently posted an article, via Oprah.com, discussing the degree to which America is rude. I know, I know. Shocking and horrifying that our Great Nation could possibly be a haven for aloof human disregard and, as Jerry Seinfeld put it on a recent Oprah show, and ever increasing "lack of civility". My mother raised me with certain rules and regulations in regards to politeness and general social decorum, and I'd like to think that I've turned into a polite and kind person. I stand up in the bus when an older person boards so they may have my seat, I say "please" and "thank you" and "have a nice day" to just about anyone who crosses my path, and I even look people in the eye who are begging for money on DC's streets and apologize for not having anything to give them. I am not a model of politeness, but I try.
What I often run into is a deep-seated frustration with anyone who isn't polite. And in turn, I generally attempt to give them a "taste of their own medicine". I can be gruff, aloof and even downright insolent when the occasion suits. My message doesn't always translate, but I always feel vindicated (to some degree) that I've shown the offender the error of their ways. Also, having worked retail for close to 10 years full-time, and sometimes even double-time, I'm keenly aware of how pervasive and ingrained rudeness is in American culture.
Dr. P.M. Forni, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct and The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude, notes that "everyone can improve the quality of their relationships and lives by choosing to be more considerate, courteous and polite." In the age of earbuds, iPods, scurrying to work, alarm clocks, cell phones and a distinct lack of sleep, I realize that this sounds like judgmental overkill. Who is anyone to impose their Miss Manners approach to life on you? Do I have any idea of what your life is REALLY like? Well, honestly, no I don't. But I do know that despite the many hurdles I've faced in my own life, which include long commutes, early wake ups, late nights, lack of sleep, lack of food and even drastic temperature changes while on the job, I still have managed to meander through life minding most of my Ps and Qs. It has brought me great relief in situations that would be otherwise challenging. And these are mostly situations where I'll never see the person again. It's my own little attempt at paying it forward.
While working at Trader Joe's many years ago, I went through a FISH! training. The basic tenets of FISH! suggest that you choose your attitude every day. Whether you're home watching cartoons, at work dealing with coworkers, or out shopping for holiday gifts, pick the person you want the world to see. It sounds corny and unnecessary, but the rewards are sweet. Not only do you have charming and sweet mini-relationships with people who know nothing more than your name or your preference in dishware, but you actively choose to increase the quality of your life.
"The bottom line? Going through life rude and angry can make you sick."
Mind Your Ps & Qs poster from John W. Golden @ Etsy.