Are people getting ruder?

Credit: imagerymajestic /

Credit: imagerymajestic /

Who hasn’t met someone who seems to care only about themselves or feel that their wants and needs are far more important than anyone else’s? There seem to be rude people everywhere these days: at work, online, in grocery store checkout lines, at movie theaters and on every highway.

Last month I attended an outdoor festival where parking is traditionally problematic. In fact, I had to leave my car on a large, empty grassy area in the midst of a highway, which I knew from previous events was allowed.

Returning later, I found that the area where I’d left my car was now littered with vehicles parked higglety-pigglety, and that my car was hemmed in. A solid line of highway traffic to the rear meant that I couldn’t back out, nor could I drive forward with new cars parked in front of me. I had expected this and resigned myself to a wait.

It was just then that a motorist stuck in the traffic a few feet away rolled down his window and began yelling at me at full volume.

“You’re taking up TWO spaces, lady! Where do you think you are, lady? What a LADY!”

Only “lady” was not the actual word the man was using. I think you can guess what it was.

Verbal assaults from strangers are a rarity for me, especially ones punctuated with angry gesticulating and choking black exhaust. I found myself at a loss for words.

It dawned on me that this fellow had somehow decided I was selfishly taking up what might have been two parking spots. And he was determined to let me know exactly how he felt about it.

Trouble was, he was completely mistaken. And being very, very rude, to boot.

I momentarily thought about trying to explain, but as a female standing alone on a grassy verge opposite an angry stranger behind the wheel of a two-ton mass of steel shouting obscenities, I didn’t like the odds.

Rude and inconsiderate people populate our daily lives to the extent that it’s become commonplace to bemoan the churlishness of others. Thus, it’s not surprising that surveys indicate most people think that rudeness is on the rise.

A 2005 article in the Los Angeles Times stated, “nearly 70% questioned in an Associated Press-Ipsos poll said people are ruder than they were 20 or 30 years ago. The trend is noticed in large and small places alike, although more urban people report bad manners, 74%, than do people in rural areas, 67%.”

Our me-focused society, the high-stress, high-tech world we live in, and the anonymity available on the internet often get the blame for an increase in rudeness, but some consider poor parenting to be the basis of it all.

“Parents are very much to blame,” suggests Peggy Newfield in the same article. Newfield is the founder and president of Personal Best, whose Atlanta-based company started teaching etiquette to corporate employees. “And the media.”

But Cynthia Grosso, founder of the Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette in South Carolina, cautions against pointing the finger. “We all find people irritating; that’s a fact,” Grosso says in “But the bottom line is, how you treat people is not about how they are, it’s about how you are.”

Ultimately, I decided that I wasn’t going to let one rude or stupid individual ruin my whole day. Just as I was thinking that my best option was to remain positive, the owners of the car parked in front of me suddenly materialized, and started apologizing profusely for blocking my exit. They proceeded to hurry into their vehicle and even went to the effort of waving me into traffic when it was safe.

I was grateful for the reminder that complete strangers can also surprise you with unexpected graciousness and kindness. And that a little common courtesy goes a long way in counteracting the petty rudeness we are so often faced with in our daily lives.

5 Tips For Dealing With Rude People:

1. Take a deep breath.
Try to stay calm and see if you can give the rude person the benefit of the doubt. Everyone overreacts, has a bad day, or gets stressed beyond their limit now and then.

2. Don’t take it personally.
Don’t blame yourself. Most rude people are rude to everyone, not just you. Strangers (like my offender) often don’t care what you think of them because they never expect to see you again.

3. Counter rudeness with kindness.
Try responding with patience and politeness. Occasionally, rudeness is not intentional and people don’t realize they are being rude, or don’t realize just how rude they really are. You may even get an apology if they weren’t aware of their rudeness.

4. Speak up when appropriate.
Address the rudeness in a straightforward and polite way, but don’t stoop to their level. “If you’ve got somebody being rude to you, you’ve got to really make a decision to just not react,” says psychologist and TV personality Dr. Phil. “You don’t have to be confrontive, but you do need to stand up for yourself.”

5. Ignore them or simply walk away.
Ultimately, it might be best to ignore a stranger’s rude behavior, especially if you think the person is acting irrationally or is inebriated.

It wouldn’t hurt us to reflect on our own behavior now and then. We’ve all been guilty of being rude to someone else, and feeling justified in our actions, only to find out later we were wrong. Remember the Golden Rule, and try to treat others the way you would like to be treated.


2 Responses to Are people getting ruder?

  1. Shah Shahid says:

    I’ve lived in various places all over the world, including New York, and I’ve learned the best way to deal with rude people is to have a thick skin. In the situation you described, I’d probably be yelling back at the guy, then forget the incident 2 seconds later. Most of these people are used to ranting and raving, and essentially trying to socially dominate and bully strangers. However when and if confronted with the same behaviour coupled with irrefutable logic… they’re usually dumbfounded.

    But the 5 tips you list, is a good general way to deal with ‘rudies’. I’ve found though that shows like HOUSE & LIE TO ME, actually make people think it’s OK to be rude. They seem to consider it an attribute to aspire to.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s so true. I won’t even go to the movie theater anymore, citing that it’s far less of a hassle to wait for the DVD release, than to go to the theater.
    Also, your use of “higglety-pigglety” is commendable.

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