By Ted Huntington
I looked for papers and studies on rudeness and found some interesting newspaper columns but could find no papers that described my opinions on rudeness so I made this document.
My own definition:
Rudeness is when a person says something to a different person that is meant to make that person feel bad, or based on an inaccurate theory, such as theories where people of a certain race are thought to be inferior, or that only one religion is the correct religion, or that there is something wrong with homosexuality, etc.
Why are some people rude and other people nice?
It is interesting why people do insult and what causes some people to be rude, while others are always friendly and polite. Many times people that insult and put-down other people are asserting their feeling of dominance (for example white people in South Africa putting down black people). Sometimes, insults are intended to try and make a person feel bad. Some times negativity in the rude person’s life, from their home life, will be transferred on to fellow co-workers. Some times they may be angry with themselves, angry that they haven’t achieved more with their life, jealous that some body else has. They may be angry because a person is not exactly like them, doesn’t go to their church, synagogue, mosque or temple, doesn’t dress in a similar way, talks in a different way, has different hobbies, interests and lifestyle. Insults may be designed to make a different person become upset enough to cause a scene and therefore jeopardize their own job. A person may be rude because they feel there is some injustice, or feeling that somebody else has more or less money or education than they do, or a higher or lower social status. Rudeness can be a phenomenon of elitism, where a majority of people are connected in a special club, and look down on and put down those that are not members in their club. Rudeness may arise when there is a group of people that are native to some region, against those that are not native to the region. Rudeness may arise between people of different religions, political parties, education, or fans of different sports teams. In my experience, many supervisors want to pretend there is no such thing as rudeness, and would rather ignore the worst of the rude people all together, or perhaps even punish any employee that mentions that a person may be rude for being “uppity”.
Examples of Common Insults
Here are many typical insults that I have heard myself:
Based on sexual preference: “gay” (for example saying “o gay” instead of “ok”), “lez”, “dyke”, “fag”
Based on perceived amount of sex or sexuality: “slut” (instead of “slot”), “whore”, “loose”
Weight: “wide load”, “lard”
Perceived Psychiatric disorder: “psycho”, “weird”, “crazy”, “insane”,
Level of smartness: “stupid”, “dumb”
Religious beliefs or lack there of: “sinner”, “go to hell”
Race: “jew” (instead of “you”), racial slurs
Foreign: “leave” (said as one distinct word), “get out of here”, “move”, “go back to your country”
Threats of violence: “I’m going to kick this thing” (when a person walks by), “I just want to kill them”, “stick it” (instead of “put it”), “shove it” (instead of “shelve it”), “punch this” (instead of “press this”)
General insults: “dick”, “douche”, “loser”, “a-hole”, “jerk”, “schmuck”
Based on inaccurate theories: ”witch”, “demon”
The Right of Free Speech
We enjoy free speech to insult, to reply, to complain. Like the phrase “sticks and stones make break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, speech is nonviolent, and insults are simply air, but why hire and continue to pay people that are constantly rude? Since we enjoy free speech, shouldn’t we hire those who are friendly, polite and smart, those that make t he best use of speech?
How can we tell if a person will be rude?
It is difficult to know who is and is not rude, friendly and smart. There are standardized tests to determine level of smartness, but many think that those tests do not measure all aspects of smartness. There is not much public data available at this time, other than police records, credit reports, and job references, to determine how many insults, put-downs, property thefts, threats of violence, or actual violence a particular person has ever done in their life. In addition, for many people much of their life is still being shaped and they may be young enough not to have much history yet.
What should I do when somebody is rude to me?
Here are various approaches to rude people and their potential results.
1) Ignore/absorb the insult:
Example: Some person walks by you and says “psycho”, you ignore and do not reply back
They still look bad for being rude.
There is no question as to who is rude, they are rude, you are not, if you had replied, people may confuse the timing of the 2 insults and think that you insulted first. All people see is two people insulting each other, and can’t figure out who started.
They already know your thoughts (but, sometimes it has more effect for them to hear a reply out loud).
You are letting them win by getting dragged into an insult match with them on their terms.
They get away without any punishment or reply.
They may continue believing they are correct.
Their rude accusation (ie “lez”, “psycho”) may be thought by others to be accurate.
You are not standing up to the bully and they may feel that they can continue to insult you without any punishment or retribution, that you will clearly take their insults.
For example some body walks by you and says “fag”, you walk by them and say “rude”.
You are standing up to the rude bully, letting them know that you can put them down too.
The rest of the co-workers see that you will defend yourself and that may stop them from unloading more insults.
Many times returning an insult will make a rude person even ruder and more hostile.
You are sinking down to their level, you have a life, you have projects, you have better things to do with your time, insulting them back is a waste of your time.
People may not understand who insulted first, and who the rude person actually is, and you might get in trouble simply for replying or confronting them.
3) Confront the rude co-worker directly
Example: A person walks by you and says “psycho”. You walk up to them and say “I would appreciate if you would not call me ‘psycho’, I am not rude to you etc.”
May be all the person needs is to be talked to in order to change and become friendly (although my experience is that, while a few people become less rude over long periods of time, most never change, in particular the older they get).
You may be able to get the rude person to stop insulting you simply by confronting them, and then you avoid getting a supervisor involved and a potentially longer process.
May make them emotional and cause a scene.
May make them violent and cause a physical fight.
May make them even ruder.
Almost always, they will never admit what they said, no cameras or physical evidence can prove it, it is your word versus theirs, and so nothing productive will ever get done, and you may be accused of making trouble, or trying to get somebody in trouble.
Many people that insult may be comfortable “dishing out” insults again and again, but become emotional or even violent when an insult is “served” back to them. It is a phenomenon described in the phrase “they can dish it out, but they can’t take it”
4) Meet with a supervisor to complain about rude co-workers
You do not have to confront the rude person directly.
The authority of a supervisor may actually make them fear losing their job if they are rude to you, and they may stop out of fear of losing their job.
May cause a long set of meetings and investigation process.
Supervisor may think you are lying, without any proof, and may seek to punish you, or think you are a trouble maker.
Will probably result in long term cold feelings between you and the rude person (which may already exist anyway).
What if my supervisor is the rude person or is rude too?
At this point there is not much you can do, and you should either find a different job, complain to an independent organization like the Better Business Bureau, or find a way to ignore and or absorb the rude insults directed at you. You may chose to confront your supervisor, and tell them, you think they were rude, you may go above them to their supervisor (but you may be taking a large risk being a person near the bottom approaching a person near the top, unless they are a truly friendly person, and even if they are, they may view you as a problem-maker, petty, or a nuisance for wanting to meet with them, and you may get in trouble or lose your job).
Realize there is a potential for misunderstanding
There is always the possibility that a person, for example, saying “gay” is actually a supporter of gay rights, and is not trying to label a person gay, or put down a person who is openly gay. People should allow some amount of uncertainty. Some times our mouth muscles move without our permission to say stuff by accident. It was amazing that just recently I was talking to some person and in the middle of the sentence I accidentally said the word “limp” without trying to (and the other person could easily interpret that as an intentional put-down), another time I was trying to say “the far right wing” and it came out “the fart right wing”. The best way to determine if a person is actually being rude is to carefully document every body’s insults to you, with date (and perhaps even time), to see if some people rise above the background level of insults, then there is probably less doubt that they are intentionally being rude. But you must be careful to be an impartial and neutral observer and not slanting the numbers against people you think are the rudest, or that you like the least. In addition, not all insults have the same value. For example, putting a person down because of their lifestyle is not as bad as putting a person down because of their race. One other approach is to attach a web camera to the victim’s computer, or have them wear a hidden camera or microphone during work hours to try and collect good physical evidence of other people’s insults, to get video that you can present to the person in the event (as is probably most common) that they will try to lie.
Some words perceived as insults may actually be factual, for example a doctor saying that you are overweight or fat, stated as a fact.
How serious is persistent rudeness?
Rudeness is a hassle and is upsetting to those people that are the focus of bullying and put-downs, but I think those bullied victims should try to be strong, and remember that what ever the insult, it is only sound, and that you are not being physically attacked. Remember that we are in an information age, where information is flowing more freely and perhaps we should tolerate normally unacceptable speech. There are video games where people we know are blown into pieces, shows where rudeness is routine, and the Internet where any picture imaginable is available. I think it is important to remember that rudeness is free speech, as is complaining about rude people, and that there are much more serious problems on earth, in particular violence and property destruction. Maybe we are looking at a future of total free speech and information where one employee might say “complete your time sheet, douche-bag”, and the other employee might reply “ok thank you bitch”.
Other possible answers to stopping rudeness
I wish rude people would not be hired, and there was good record keeping to record all the insults, to determine who is and is not overly rude. Perhaps surveys could be done to try and determine who the rudest people are according to all employees of some company. Perhaps awards could be given to those everybody votes are the nicest. I have heard plenty of rude put-downs in my life, of myself and of other people. In one job I had when I was still in high school a poor women was bullied by two other women persistently every day, and I couldn’t help but wonder why they were never disciplined, let go, or how they got hired to begin with. The bullied woman was friendly, polite and smart, and those other two women had no justification for being so mean to her. And those three had worked together in the same office every weekday for years and years.
Advice to rude people
Most people have been rude in a first degree manner at some time in their life. I know I have at least one uncalled for rude insult that I regret in my past. Sometimes a bad feeling takes over our body, or we say things quickly without trying or without meaning to, or we say something quickly and later regret saying it. I think the best answer to that is to carefully understand your own feelings, to see things through the eyes of the other person, and to at least recognize in your own mind that you wish you hadn’t insulted the person. From there, although there may always be a rift between you and the other person, at least you can try to make amends and take responsibility for your rudeness. It is never too late to drop the rude insults altogether, and simply keep rude thoughts in your head, or try to find the positive things in your own life. It is to your advantage not to be rude to people, and many times tiny 2 second rude put-downs can cause long term rifts and animosity between people that have to spend much of their lives together. Sometimes a rude person may be too focused on the victim of their rudeness, in that case, they should probably try to focus on other people and catch themselves when they are too focused on the same person.