Bad behavior

Do you turn into a monster behind the wheel of your car or when you’re in other seemingly anonymous situations? Why is it that even the mildest mannered, gracious people become Mr. Hyde in certain circumstances?

A friend of mine shared that one of her friends, who lives in LA, was driving and got mad at the driver in front of him. He leaned out of his window swearing, shaking his fist and yelling at the driver. After a bit he discovered that the driver he was yelling at was his biggest client. Lucky for Mr. Road Rage, his client did not notice who was making such a fuss, but it could have been a very costly mistake.

Along the same lines, my friend told me that her husband was doing cold calls – a thankless job for anyone – and twice two representatives from companies slammed the phone down on him. Her husband is a courteous, kind person who owns a graphic design firm. It’s hard for me to understand why someone would slam the phone on him.

Both of these stories illustrate something. They show the lack of humanity people can have when they disconnect; when they forget they are interacting with another human being. Most of us are guilty of it at one time or another. I certainly have been.

One time, driving in my car, I almost ran into another driver going around a traffic circle because one of us (not sure if it was me or the other person) was going the short way around it. I started to make an angry face at the other driver when I noticed it was my brother. Oops!

In other instances, I find it hard to be empathetic when someone is rude to me. A friend reminded me that you never know what’s going on with someone. Maybe the person just got bad news.

My friend is right; we are all humans doing the best we can. Let’s be kinder. I know it’s not always easy, especially when someone does something that upsets or bothers us, but I encourage you to slow down and take a breath before responding rudely to another person. Besides being bad for your health, your rude behavior could have consequences – a lost client, a sibling who doesn’t speak to you or just bad karma.

Kindness begets kindness. So what do you say, will you give it a try? The next time someone cuts you off on the road, whether on purpose or by accident, assume it was an accident and let it go. When that grocery clerk is surely, smile and compliment her on her earrings or scarf or whatever. Rather than react in anger, respond with love.

Now let’s all sing Kum Ba Ya and hug.





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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. BethBuelow on March 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Guilty as charged…sometimes. I’ve gotten better about relaxing and “assuming best intent” when someone else does something I perceive as rude, and I’m more aware of when I’m that “someone.” Behind the wheel of a car is the worst! But it’s really the place we need to control our emotions the most. I think we forget we’re hurtling across a concrete surface at 60mph in a 2-ton machine that crumples at best and explodes at worst upon impact.
    When it comes to the workplace and relationships, one of the best books I’ve read that drives home the point about treating people like people and not objects is “Leadership & Self-Deception.”  I highly recommend it!
    Thanks for the post, Arden Clise , and the important reminder that kindness begets kindness.

  2. ArdenClise on March 22, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    I like how you said “assuming best intent”. That’s a great way of speaking to finding the good in everyone.
    I have to agree, it’s easy to become rude behind the wheel of the car. I don’t quite understand it, but it happens to me more than I like.
    Very sadly, there was a man in our neighborhood who let his emotions get the best of him and he shot another man while driving, we think because the other man’s drivng bothered him. Now the shooter is in jail and the man he shot is dead. It’s so tragic!
    Thanks for the book recommendation. I hadn’t heard of that one. It sounds great!

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