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The Psychology Behind Rude Behavior

Updated on March 15, 2013
Competition obsession is a lonely existence.
Competition obsession is a lonely existence. | Source

Causes of Rudeness

It is fun to vent about the jerk-wad things that some people do. Unfortunately, on the whole, I get the sense that the problem isn't that these people are ignorant of the rules and impact of their actions- they just don't care. In many cases, it's easy to imagine that they delight in doing damage to other people.

It's possible to guess that an increase in "rude" behavior comes from two areas: culture change and society strain. The culture change is seen in our shifting views about behaviors that don't actually hurt anyone (such as eating with our elbows on the table). This, arguably, is only the result of the ongoing and natural evolution of society.

Behaviors which are obviously harmful or deeply disruptive to others (refusal to follow traffic rules, interrupting the sleep of neighbors) could be on the rise because our society is experiencing increased psychological stresses. The pre-existing psychological state of the members in our culture is being met with a handful of new and unexpected perceptions.

The culture of the United States has most recently been strongly centered around old ideals of independence- not only of our States, but of our individual selves- and competition. We understand competition to be the best method for prosperity and happiness. This is infused within us and shapes our approach to every encounter.

Competition is rooted in extroversion, which is a personality trait that only 49% of humanity shares. Those of us who are unable to successfully shape a life around competition, due to introversion (a preference for intellectual pursuits above often-competitive social pursuits), can suffer by absorbing these cultural standards. Those who do not fit the extroverted and competitive nature of the US culture will often berate themselves and feel inferior among peers. This can often lead to passive aggressive attempts at establishing a competitive side, whether it brings personal success or not.

Basically, what this means is that we now have two sets of people: overtly aggressive extroverts and passively aggressive introverts. Those who are passive aggressive will be tempted to perform indirect rude behaviors as a display of social competency, while those who are overtly aggressive will have learned that society "cheers them on" in their rudeness, and feel equally compelled.

Thus, you have a giant black truck tailgating you the entire way to work, regardless of the fact that you're driving 5mph over the speed limit already. You'll have people glaring at you in the checkout line. You'll have neighbors bringing their dog over to poop on your lawn.

The increase in these behaviors can be caused by the convergence of stressful national wartime strains, including economic worries, as well as the emerging culture of the internet. People are able to really let their aggression soar online, where the lines between passive and overt are almost entirely blurred.


The United States is a country which, while not the worst in the world, fails to fully understand itself. The key to solving any behavioral dilemma is to first recognize who and what you are, including your personal limits and where you fit within the larger scope of society, humanity and life on Earth. An education in psychology, sociology, anthropology, biology and any amount of information which may help a person know themselves and their environment better can often be the simple solution to increasing a person's power over their own life.

People who suffer from insecurities or an over-reliance on competitive behaviors, without being aware of the true reasons for those feelings, are merely slaves to their past experiences.

They weren't kidding when they said that knowledge is power.

Be open to understanding how you work, how other people work and how societies work. Be open to finding new information which questions everything you've been told. Most of all, be open to the idea that you are not defined by your ability to match what your culture expects of you, especially when those expectations lead to your own inability to navigate humanity in a safe and successful way.


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