Will it kill you to be nice?

angry driverIt’s National Etiquette Week – a time when we remember the importance of acting with courtesy, civility, kindness and good manners. And a good reminder it is. In our busy, rush, rush 21st century lives, it seems courtesy and kindness often take a back seat to our own agenda. For example; too often I find myself in my car quietly maligning slow drivers. As if having to go around a slow car, or wait for a driver to notice the green light is going to ruin my day. It’s really silly!

I know I’m not alone in my impatience and occasional perturb at people. However, more often it’s not just someone getting privately annoyed by leisurely drivers or what have you; some people take their frustration out on others.

My friend Beth Buelow was walking her dog when she approached another person walking his dog. She had her dog on a short lead but just as they passed each other her dog did a little leap and bark. The dogs didn’t touch and Beth had her dog under control the whole time. However, the other dog owner said some rude things to Beth about her and her dog and it really affected her. She had a hard time shaking off the words the dog owner hurled at her.

Beth, an introvert, author and President of The Introvert Entrepreneur, posted what happened on her company Facebook page asking if her introvert readers get as affected by other people’s rudeness. I was amazed at how many people responded by sharing similar stories of disrespect they had experienced.

Here are some of the things people shared:

I was crossing a street with my daughter and I’m using a cane right now so it took a little longer than normal. This guy in a large moving truck beeped his horn. I turned thinking it was someone I knew. He flipped me off and sped away. Didn’t know him and it’s not like I was in his way because he didn’t turn down the road I was crossing.

I was at a stop sign, and took a moment to go – the guy in the pickup truck behind me shouted obscenely at me (F###, C###) – I began to shake, and was upset for hours. He didn’t even know me.

I am still not over something that happened the last time I went back to visit my family in Germany. The plane landed and this guy immediately gets up. He and his lady friend push their way up the isle until they are stuck behind me. I am letting people in from of me get off the plane first and am waiting for a nice old lady to get up. He elbows me and pushes past me and calls me names and asks why in the world I wasn’t moving. When I explained that I was letting people in front of me get off the plane first, he pushes me back in my row and muscles past me and the old lady. I was speechless.

I am speechless at the incredible cruelty all of these stories illustrate. As Beth and others reiterated throughout the Facebook post comments, “what is wrong with people?” Well, I’m not a psychiatrist, so I’m not going to pretend I know, but I am an etiquette consultant and my job is to remind people of the importance of being kind and civil to others.

Here are some things to keep in mind when people frustrate you.

  • Remind yourself that they are not trying to annoy you. They are simply doing the best they can.
  • Slow down. Why are we always in such a hurry? Is it going to impact you that someone didn’t immediately move when the light changed? I doubt it. If the person is taking a long time to notice the green light, lightly tap your horn, but do not call the person names.
  • Ask yourself, how you want to be treated. Do you like being yelled at and called offensive names? My guess is probably not. Follow the golden rule – treat others as you wish to be treated yourself.
  • Think of the annoying person as someone you love – your parent, best friend or child. Would you treat that person that way? If yes, see the point below.
  • If hurling obscenities at people because they frustrate you is something you do regularly, please get help. You’ve got an anger management problem.

If you’re on the receiving end of someone’s vitriol here are some things you can do.

  • Don’t react. Often a reaction is exactly what this person wants and it will lead to a bigger altercation.
  • Be empathetic and forgiving. Realize this person is probably having a bad day or bad life and needs some kindness in his life. This also helps to depersonalize the insult and realize it’s not about you.
  • Be kind to others. My friend Beth decided to take the hurt she was feeling and turn it into love by being especially nice to people she encountered through her day. Her kindness to others helped turn around a negative start to her day. She ended up feeling much better. And, I’m sure those who experienced her kindness were uplifted by it.

Let’s make National Etiquette Week more than just a week of being mannerly and civil. Let’s make a point of being kind, courteous and forgiving of others always. I promise I will be more tolerant of slow drivers and I encourage you to find your patience when dealing with people who frustrate you. Our collective kindness will make the world a much better place.

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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 >>

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