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America's Affection with Rude Behavior

Updated on November 1, 2016

How Rude!

I was trying to back out of a parking space behind a local pizza shop when a car driven by a young lady flew around the corner. I tried to pull forward again and let her go by when she started screaming at me out the window. "Learn how to drive!" she loudly repeated herself over and over as she raged at the wheel. When she finally parked, I contemplated marching up to her car and giving her a piece of my mind - but I didn't.

Why? Because, according to, "Rudeness should never beget rudeness", and I believe in being the better person. And this is not to say I'm perfect. I've done my share of tailgating when running late and for that - shame on me. In recent years, I have attempted to become more aware that even this behavior symbolizes our societal trend towards frustration and impatience.

Ruder and Less Civilized

Still, as I drove back to my office, I was flabbergast. This was not the first time I had witnessed public rudeness. In fact, it is quite commonplace lately. Flipping the bird and screaming are choice driving behaviors for those who can't control their frustration. Are American's embracing this kind of behavior more and more?

A recent poll indicates that, "Most Americans continue to feel their fellow citizens are becoming ruder and less civilized, and half say they have actually confronted someone over their behavior." The article goes on to say that 76% of American's feel that rudeness is increasing. (


A Hostile Environment

That's disheartening.

Neuroscientist Dr. Douglas Fields attempts to explain rudeness in context with human brain development. "The latest scientific research," says Fields, "backs up with detailed molecular and cellular mechanisms what [we] always knew intuitively, that through adolescence, the human brain is molded by the social environment in which a child is reared. A disrespectful, stressful social environment is a neurotoxin for the brain and psyche, and the scars are permanent."

This brings to mind an incident that occurred a couple years back while I was riding with a friend. We were traveling on a highway when he accidentally cut off a car behind us. Immediately, the car caught up to us at a light and the man rolled his window down and began to loudly berate my friend. My friend stared ahead not wanting to fuel the fire and whispered out loud apologetically, "I didn't see him." The man was yelling from the passenger side of the car and what disturbed me the most was when I turned to see who was yelling, I could see two little figures in the backseat. The man was creating an environment of stress and disrespect for his children and as Fields says, "the scars are permanent."

Fields goes on to say that, "American children today are raised in an environment that is far more hostile than the environment that nurtured today's adults. Children today are exposed to behaviors, profane language, hostilities and stress from which we adults, raised a generation ago, were carefully shielded."

Don't Take it Personally

So American's are rude and it's getting worse. What can be done about it?

"Don't take it personally," says an article on "Always remind yourself not to take traffic problems personally. Never focus your generalized anger on a single incident, which could become the flash point for a dangerous conversation." Meaning if we're late, frustrated and stressed in the first place, a traffic annoyance on behalf of another driver shouldn't unleash all our pent up rage in a conflictual conversation with that individual. Frankly, that's just unfair. Especially, if the person seriously did not mean to accidentally pull out in front of you.

This reminded me of one gracious lady's reaction recently. She zoomed past my car and swerved into another lane. Shocked at her impatient behavior, I sought to see who on earth was driving this car like a mad man. To my surprise, it was an attractive middle-aged woman and when she saw the error of her ways and my surprise, she simply lifted an apologetic hand into a wave and smiled. I understood and my anger dissipated. I vowed to learn from this kind soul, who in her humanity, really "didn't see me."

A Ripple of Consideration

Cindy Post Senning, great granddaughter of Emily Post (the famous etiquette guru) was asked in an article, "Do you think kids are ruder today than they used to be." Senning responds, "People are concerned, but I believe the concern is cause for celebration. Let’s act on that concern. Each one of us has the capacity to act in respectful and considerate ways. We should start with our own kids. It’s like a ripple."

And as we know, a ripple starts very small - as in one person. Me.

Give the offender the benefit of the doubt.
Perhaps he's having a really bad day. Forget about how annoyed you are by imagining what he might be going through—the sting of a recent confrontation, financial troubles, an ill spouse. Or it may just be that he's completely clueless about the impact his behavior has on the people around him.
Size up your annoyances.
Will it accomplish anything to make a stink about the person who’s using a credit card at the ``Cash Only’’ register, or will it just be a waste of your emotional energy?
Set a good example
Rudeness begets rudeness. If you speak sharply to a bank teller, don’t be surprised if you get the same treatment in return.
Encourage a positive response.
When someone’s behavior makes you angry or causes you difficulty, devise a thoughtful way to engage the person so you can find a solution. Saying, "Mary your nasty perfume gives me a migraine!" probably won't be as effective as saying something like: "Mary, I'm really sensitive to certain scents, and I'm afraid your perfume is giving me a headache. Would you mind wearing a little bit less to work? Thanks!"
Laugh it off.
Countering the comment, “You look awful!” with a sarcastic retort like “How kind of you to say so!” is preferable to “Well, you don’t look so hot yourself!” If you can’t come up with a friendly joke, just chuckle and change the subject.


76% Say U.S. Society is Ruder, Less Civilized - Rasmussen Reports™. (2012, October 29). Rasmussen Reports™: The Most Comprehensive Public Opinion Data Anywhere. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from

Fields, D. (2011, January 5). Dr. Douglas Fields: Rudeness Is a Neurotoxin. Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from

How Rude!. (n.d.). Emily Post Mobile. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from

In Your Car. (n.d.). Emily Post Mobile. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from


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