Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Do You Know When You're Being Rude?

Given the flexibility of contemporary customs many people do not even know when they are being rude. One person's rude might well be another person's cool.

Thus, it is worth reviewing Anthony Balderrama's list of rude workplace behaviors. They range from interrupting people constantly to failing to say please and thank you to having bad table manners. Link here.

Of course, the same rules apply to personal life. I recall a man who was explaining that he could not understand why his girlfriend had never invited him out to dinner with her friends or family. After a while, a warm, loving relationship succumbed to his being excluded from important social functions.

But, why did she exclude him? The only possible clue lay in the fact that she had occasionally chided him for chewing with his mouth open.

Now, you might think that he would have reacted to this news by making every effort to learn to chew with his mouth closed.

Not at all. When I asked him why he had not undertaken to correct this habit he became defensive and belligerent.

He simply could not accept that his capacious love would be discarded because of something as trivial as table manners. And he was offended at the notion that anyone would judge him ill for failing to adhere to a mindless social custom.

He could not understand that she would have discarded a warm, loving, sexually satisfying relationship because he could not chew with his mouth closed.

No one likes to feel that he is a public embarrassment. No one accepts gladly that everyone considers him a boorish lout, not because for holding dissonant opinions but for not knowing how to hold a fork. It is much easier to denounce society for being uptight, repressed, and retrograde.

The pain is even greater when the fault is something that could have easily been remedied.

I will not belabor the point that this man was trying to have it both ways. On the one hand he wanted to be included in social events. On the other hand, he refused to adopt the same manners as everyone else.

No one can force him to learn how to eat without annoying his dinner partners with his masticatory cacophony. But no one can force his girlfriend, her friends, or her family to invite him to join them in a basic social bonding ritual either.

All of this to say, that as you read through Balderrama's list of workplace rudeness do not expect that you will react positively to the discovery that some of your habits are on the list.

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