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More Thoughts on Rudeness

August 2, 2010
Mary Jane Copps

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Due to the wide variety of ways we can communicate with each other on phone equipment – texting, email, voicemail and real-time conversation – there is a wide-range of behaviours that are acceptable to some people, and not to others. How do we determine the best way to behave and when? I think the answer lies, once again, in the “It’s Not About You” category. If your behaviour focuses on making the other person comfortable, you will never be perceived as rude.

This may sound easy, but it really isn’t. Telephone technology has evolved to support our extremely busy, multi-tasking lifestyles (Or has it inspired it? A debate for another day!) Our phones exist to make our lives easier and, as a consequence, we often do what works for us, completely forgetting about the comfort of others.

I’ll provide an example from my own life, a situation which I created that resulted in my being rude and I have only myself to blame.

Over my vacation I ended up with an eye infection, nothing serious but it wouldn’t go away. When I couldn’t arrange to see my own physician, I agreed to go to the evening clinic and see the doctor on call. It was one of those very hot, very sticky summer evenings and my husband drove me over and, being the nice guy he is, insisted on waiting for me in the nearby Sobey’s parking lot.

When I reached the doctors’ office and felt the wonders of air conditioning, I realized it was silly that my husband was sitting in the hot car. The clinic was very quiet; I was the only patient in the waiting room. I did know better but … I reached for my cell phone, quickly dialed my husband to tell him to join me where it was cool. And of course, just as he answered his phone, the doctor appeared at the front desk and called my name. There I was, stuck between two rude behaviours: follow the doctor into his office while ignoring him and talking to my husband, or say something unintelligible to my husband and quickly hang up.

I landed somewhere in between. I smiled at the doctor, made eye contact and followed him, while talking to my husband. It wasn’t particularly successful. My husband didn’t understand what I said so I had to repeat myself before I could hang up. The doctor looked annoyed that I was taking up his time, but talking to someone else. I don’t blame him at all. I did apologize very clearly once I ended my call but really, I knew better. Instead of thinking clearly about time and place, I reached for my cell phone and made someone uncomfortable. I was rude!

We have become very attached to our cell phones. We talk on them without thinking about the comfort of others, we accept calls without thinking about the comfort of others, we take them out and look at them without thinking about the comfort of others. They have made it easy to be rude and some diligence is now required on our part to create change.

Got a cell phone “rudeness” story? Did someone make you uncomfortable or did you succumb to rude behaviour? Please share your story so we can all improve!

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