That’s Just Rude!

By Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor

Paper or Plastic? Sound familiar? Do you know what else is familiar? How many of us have been at a checkout counter where the clerks are talking to each other and ignoring us, the customer? Rude, wasn’t it? The fact is, rudeness in our society is reaching epidemic proportions.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of rude behavior. Sometimes, we may even be guilty of it ourselves. So what exactly constitutes rude behavior? Is it always intentional? Can you be rude by not taking action? Can it be an accident?

Fact: The offended party is the sole judge of whether something is rude or not.

One person’s rude might be another person’s habit. For example, I might think it’s rude to constantly crack your knuckles, while you may feel great when you’re doing it. To get a clear understanding of the term rude, let’s look at its definition:

a. Lacking the graces and refinement of civilized life; uncouth

b. Lacking education or knowledge.

c. Ill-mannered; discourteous.

Not exactly words you’d want to be used when describing you, huh? To make rudeness easier to identify, understand, and (hopefully) avoid, we’ve classified rude behaviors into the form of a matrix. On the X-axis, we’ve distinguished between whether the rudeness was passive or active. In other words, was it from something you did or from something you didn’t do? On the Y-axis, we’ve distinguished by whether the action was accidental or purposeful.

Accidental Rudeness by Omission is inadvertent rudeness caused by a lack of action. Examples include:

  • Forgetting to RSVP to a function or meeting.
  • Being so focused that you ignore others around you.

Accidental Rudeness by Commission which is inadvertent rudeness caused by something you did. Examples include:

  • Inappropriate cell phone use.
  • Sneezing into your hands and then offering to shake hands.

Intentional Rudeness by Omission is purposeful rudeness caused by a lack of action. Examples might include:

  • Not returning voice mails, email, or phone calls.
  • Purposefully leaving a mess with the intention of having others clean it up.

Intentional Rudeness by Commission is perhaps the worse offense of them all. This is rudeness delivered on purpose and caused by an action you took. This is industrial strength rudeness that is intended to send a message.

  • Being ‘nasty’ on purpose or using sarcastic humor.
  • One-word answers (this is often thought of as cold and uncaring).

As you can see, for such a little word, “rude” is a big topic. Let’s strive for a “rude out” – a day without any rude behavior.

Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training.

[From Connection Magazine April 2005]

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