Four ways to kill with kindness — And still get what you want

Photo_Arms Crossed_Danny Wallace pink credit Sela Shiloni
Danny Wallace/ Photo Credit: Sela Shiloni

“Rudeness is everywhere,” says Danny Wallace.

Wallace, an award-winning comedy producer and journalist who was recently appointed head of new comedy development for the BBC, got so fed up with it, he decided to write a book.

In “F YOU VERY MUCH: Understanding the Culture of Rudeness—and What We Can Do About It.” Wallace draws on interviews with neuroscientists, psychologists, NASA scientists, politicians and other experts to find out what turns normal people into jerks.

“Science has shown us it’s contagious, a kind of neurotoxin that can spread through a workplace like a common cold,” Wallace explains. Even just witnessing, he added, it is enough for it to affect us, our creativity, our friendships and our work.

Wallace’s offers ways to beat rudeness in four key situations:

1. You’ve received what you’re absolutely certain is a passive aggressive email.

Science shows us that we are far more likely to be rude to people or see rudeness where none was intended, when we can’t look into their eyes. The anonymity of the internet has not proved as damaging as the lack of eye contact. So, in life, email less, talk more.

2.  Someone has just cut you up on the road.

You are already swearing and waving a finger around. But remember that you can’t see them. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe they’re really sorry. Now they see you and your rude hand gestures, and they’re slamming on their brakes to get back at you. A fight for respect has broken out. In Britain, we say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ to other drivers by briefly (and possibly illegally) flashing our hazard lights. It often helps soothe a bad situation. So give people the benefit of the doubt every now and again.

3. Someone has just been rude to you in a store you already feel uncomfortable in.

You feel like you don’t belong in it any more, or you’re not good enough. Well, you’re essentially in ‘Pretty Woman,’ aren’t you? And science shows us we’re now far more likely to want to buy from that rude person, just to prove we can. People do it all the time. They waste hundreds of dollars just to buy a stranger’s respect. But don’t. You’ve already won: you have the power to take your custom elsewhere.

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4. Someone in a position of mild authority was rude to you.

The parking garage attendant, the bank teller, the person in HR. They are often rude because they feel disrespected. They see rudeness in you because they expect you to treat them badly. Being told they are appreciated does wonders, so treat them nicely.

Snack On This:

Read an excerpt from Wallace’s book, where he explains the difference between etiquette and politeness. Want more? Buy the book on Amazon or follow him on Twitter.

“I couldn’t care less about etiquette. I don’t think we need to pull out chairs for people. If there’s a puddle, I’m not going to take off my brand-new cape and lay it down for you to step on, though if I were wearing a cape in the first place you’d have every right to be rude to me. However, I do think if someone’s walking through a door behind us we could hold it open for them. I do think if we’re in line in a Syrian post office, we should absolutely wait our turn, and if a radical extremist tries to elbow his way to the front, we have every right to sigh and tut.

That’s the difference between etiquette and politeness.  We need politeness because it is right, it lifts our spirits, it makes things better, it lubricates the day and helps everything run smoother.”

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