Yes, I am very well aware that I already wrote a blog post today however I read this article on MSN and now I have decided to share my little (or lengthy) opinion about it here since I didn’t feel like getting in to a long debate about it on the MSN comment board. Please enjoy. Thank you. 🙂
I’m sorry MSN but I disagree. I do not believe that American’s are becoming less polite in fact, I believe that American’s are just as polite as they have ever been. The problem is not that American’s are becoming less polite, instead the problem is that American’s are becoming a culture that sensationalizes the negatives and therefore acknowledges rudeness far more frequently than they acknowledge kindness.
Consider the following:
When you are driving somewhere how frequently do you notice the car that slows down just a little bit to allow you that extra foot of space so you can change lanes? How frequently do you stop at a 4-way stop at nearly the same time as another car and then the other driver waves you to go ahead and turn? How frequently do cars stop so that you, a pedestrian, can cross the street or a parking lot? Yes, I know pedestrians have the right-of-way and therefore the cars should stop but would a “rude” person obey that? No, but a polite person would. In our every day life these little politenesses and these little kindnesses are taken for granted but that one driver that cuts us off sure gets noticed doesn’t he? Or that one driver that takes the parking space you were eyeing.
How frequently does someone hold open a door for you? Do you know? Do you even acknowledge it when it happens? Probably not because we have become so accustomed to automated doors at shopping malls, grocery stores, pet stores, convenience stores, etc that we have almost developed an expectation that a door will be opened for us and so it’s not acknowledged when it’s an actual living and breathing person that is opening the door for you. Most people will walk right through the open door without realizing someone is holding it for them. The person holding the door = polite and kind. The person walking through the door = oblivious, not rude. Oblivion is no excuse but let’s keep some perspective here. Have you ever counted how many doors you walk through in a day? Ever counted how many of them are automated? Opened for you? Opened by you? or Opened by someone else and not held for you? I doubt you have. I did though, once. It was an odd kind of social experiment I thought up one day. I was curious. My findings were as follows (on a day I ran many errands, went shopping at the mall and the grocery store):
Total Doors = 27
Automated Doors = 17 (63%)
Doors Opened for Me = 5
Doors Opened by Me = 4 (mostly bathrooms)
Doors Opened and Not Held for Me = 1
The findings? A door was not held for me .03% of the time. That is not a strong enough percentage for me to say that we have become a rude culture.
I get disheartened when I read the comments on that MSN article. There are so many people complaining about the rudeness of others but in their complaints they are using foul language and calling people from a specific region or country cruel names. In their complaints they are condeming those that don’t use “Sir” or “Ma’am” but I have to wonder how many of them actually refer to others as “Sir” or “Ma’am.” I wonder about these people that are so quick to condemn others for their negative behavior and I wonder if they are so p0lite and kind in their own lives? Somehow I doubt it.
I work with the public every single day and somedays I feel like I am screamed at, cussed at, called names and insulted all day every day. It’s discouraging. It’s also not true. A few weeks ago I had an especially disheartening day so I came up with a little system to track the especially horrible people I spoke to in a day.
(Quick little aside here to explain…I work in a call center M-F and I have to record every single person I speak to in an Excel spreadsheet. I record the number of the call (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, … 89…104…etc), the name of the person, their phone number, the date/time, account number, property location and purpose of the call. It’s time consuming but it helped me to do what I’m about to describe.)
I typically talk to an average of about 130 customers per workday. One day I decided that I was going to give a special little marking to those that were rude or difficult and I began changing the background color of their call record to red. I expected to see red, after red, after red, after red but do you know what I found? At the end of that day I had spoken to nearly 144 customers and I had only 2 in red. TWO! That is .013% of the people I spoke to that day or if you want to look at it from a different perspective then 99.99% of the people I spoke to that day were kind and polite and respectful and understanding. I have done the same record keeping every day and I find the same results. It’s always less than 1% negative and rude. I’m convinced that we see what we want to see from people. I believe that we see negativity on television, in the movies, in our music and in the media and we focus on it when we see it in real life.
It’s positive in…positive out.
It’s the Golden Rule.
It’s you reap what you sow.
Be kind to people and people will be kind to you. Be respectful to others and people will be respectful to you. Be polite and understanding and accepting and you will be treated in kind. Just whatever you do, don’t expect behavior from others that you aren’t willing to give to others.