Rudeness is a Killer
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
Inconsideration and disrespect may seem ordinary and everyday to you. From the jerk who cuts you off in traffic to the sales clerk who ignores you when you need help in a store. Most of us just have a momentary angry reaction. We might complain about it to the next person we meet. In a short time, we shrug it off and move on to other thoughts.
But stop for a moment and think about this: you, too, do unintentionally inconsiderate and disrespectful things. Without thinking about the harm it can do to less emotionally robust individuals. You may not understand why some other folks take it so seriously when you make a seemingly casual remark or ask them for something they might not want to do or give. What you say or do may not seem like a big deal. Yet somehow it can become so.
Sometimes you see the effects of your words and behavior. Sometimes you don't or don't attribute the effects to yourself. And sometimes the effects come down on you like a hammer.
Let me tell you a couple of stories.
In this first instance, the inconsiderate person never found out how her behavior affected another:
Angie is a highly skilled seamstress. She has a specialty of making wedding dresses. Angie worked for others for years before opening her own shop, a very successful and well-respected shop. People who work for her love her because she is kind, generous and helpful. She shares her knowledge and training with them and helps them become better. She doesn't treat them as possible future competitors; she mentors them.
As you can well imagine, she is also well loved by her clients, for whom her exceptional skills have created the centerpieces of a memorable wedding day -- the bridal gown. All through the process of creating her art, she works closely with her clients to make sure they are comfortable in their dresses as well as shown off to their best advantage by them. Her work is a truly personal service. You might say she mentors her clients as much as she mentors her employees. She mentors her clients in being beautiful for that one day that is most important to them to be beautiful. She is very conscientious about every aspect of her work.
Because Angie is so conscientious, she is careful to keep in contact with each client at every stage to make sure everything is ready well in advance of "the big day." And, yes, she is very aware of the stresses her clients carry and has great experience in dealing calmly with their anxieties, demands and tempers.
One client finally got to her in a way no others had done. For Angie, it had been a wild week. Delivery failures from two suppliers. A key employee out sick. A burst pipe in a bathroom causing the ruin of another client's gown, which had to be remade immediately since her wedding was within the week. As a result, Angie was forced to reschedule a particular client three times. Their schedules just didn't match very well. Fortunately, the client didn't need the dress for two months. Angie was merely being her usual thoughtful self in making sure to give clients plenty of lead time. Indeed, the dress wasn't due for delivery for another month.
With all the disruptions, the day before the oft-rescheduled fitting, Angie was still not quite ready. So, she stayed late at the shop and worked on the dress until the wee hours of the morning. Then, in order to be sure of meeting her client on time, she slept on a sofa in her tiny office. It was easy enough for her to stay over. Among the other things going on that particular week was the finalization of her undesired divorce.
At the fitting, the client was thrilled with Angie's work. She looked spectacular in the gown, and it was ready right on time. As she was paying for the dress, however, she did have one complaint. She thought that in consideration of all the stress it caused her to have to be rescheduled so many times, she should get a discount on the price.
Angie just looked at her blankly and agreed to the discount. Something she'd never done before. Then Angie went back into her office and took a bottle of sleeping pills.
(Yes, she was found in time and survived. Which is why we know the story.)
In Angie's case, it's clear your inconsiderate words and demands can kill simply because they are "the last straw."
Also consider that, even if Angie had not been in such a vulnerable state, one of the most disappointing experiences for anyone is when he's done everything he's supposed to do, even more than he was supposed to do, did it right, did it on time and then rather than being rewarded, is punished. Most of us would have a problem with the client's behavior.
The next story illustrates something scarier.
A man about sixty years old was pulling into the ATM lane of a bank when he was cut off by a young man in an SUV. He was considerably p.o.'ed by the behavior and blew his horn several times and yelled a few choice words through his open window. He was so angry, he went up to the younger fellow, who was now parked at the ATM and told him how rude and obnoxious he thought the fellow was.
Enraged by the older man's words, the SUV driver jumped out of his and confronted the older man face to face. The two of them had a few words and the older man tried to walk away. The younger man was to angry to let it go with words. He shoved the man, from behind, into a post protecting the ATM, causing him to hit his head. He died right there.
In this case, you can see how inconsiderate and disrespectful behavior can get you injured or killed. Rude words can't be taken lightly. You can't know what kind of person you are offending or how easily what you say can escalate into unexpectedly violent encounters.
Think before you speak. Every word you say has some kind of impact.
C.S. Clarke, Ph.D. is a psychologist/coach who publishes Superperformance.com: Human Performance and Achievement Resources, providing a wide range of content and tools for improving human performance and productivity. Dr. Clarke also publishes EverydayDelight.com, a website on positive psychology, positive thinking and everyday happiness.