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Are you *$%^# shocked? New poll on American rudeness

September 1, 2010

Every now and then, someone does a poll on how we view our country’s civility.  Someone decides they want to take the pulse of the American rudeness quotient and see what they come up with (where do they GET the money for these polls, anyway!?)

Well, in a WalletPop blog,  Tom Barlow writes about the release of a study from Rassmussen Reports that shows…<drumroll please>

that we think we Americans are only getting ruder.

I’m not surprised.  Each time these studies get done, we see that our society believes we are becoming increasingly rude, crude and indifferent.

Some of the hard data from this report:

  • 73% of people polled agreed that Americans were becoming ruder
  • 51% believe it’s rude to be on a cell phone while sitting next to someone else in public.
  • 63% thought it was rude to text while driving — never mind that several states have made this practice illegal!
  • 51% have had to call others out on their poor behavior

At the same time, 69% of respondents believe that our society is still basically fair and decent, so what this means are that we’re essentially good people, we’re just insensitive and lack awareness of appropriate behavior?

It’s always easy to point out other people’s bad behavior.  After all, we are quick to see the speck in another’s eye, but fail to recognize the plank in ours as the Biblical reference goes. It would have been interesting if there had been a question (maybe there was, but the article didn’t say) about whether or not the respondents felt their own behavior was getting worse.  My guess is that most people who reported on other people’s rudeness felt that they, themselves, were doing just great.

Therein lies the nugget of why we are becoming more oblivious to appropriate behavior: we think of ourselves first. As our society becomes more self-centered and self-absorbed, we tend to think less and less of what impacts others. “It’s ok if I have this conversation in a restaurant or when others are around me because it’s a really important call.” Or “I’ll just send off this quick email while I’m in the movie theater — it’s ok, ’cause it’s just the one and I’ll be brief.” We don’t stop to think that the clicking on the Blackberry keyboard may be annoying to others around us…

Or, perhaps we justify it by saying “everyone else is doing it. No one will notice.” Worse yet, if someone is rude or abrupt to us, we feel justified in giving back as good as we got.  “After all, they were rude first. I’ll show them.”

Our “society” may be becoming ruder, but that does not mean WE should be.  In fact, as I point out in my latest book there is significant strategic advantage to leading with kindness, consideration and outward-focused respect in business. People who are decent and kind have an easier time making, building and keeping valuable relationships, both in business and personally. They tend to be happier, more well-adjusted, and resilient than people who have a continual “it’s a dog-eat-dog world” attitude.

So what’s the takeaway here? Well, as usual, we can’t control other people’s behavior. But, as I share in the book, like tends to beget like.  It’s so much easier to be nasty and rude to someone who is nasty and rude to you.  If you lead with a smile and a genuine attitude of kindness toward someone, they’ll find being rude to you much harder.

The only way we’ll ever turn that tide of rudeness in America is if people take invidual ownership and responsibility to being nicer to one another.  Maybe, then, the next poll will show some improved results and “the ugly American” won’t be such a common label anymore.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 7, 2010 6:22 am

    As usual, you get to the point. ~M

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