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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Friday, June 22, 2007

Sometimes attitude means more than skills

Thanks to all of you who wished Mrs. B and me well on the eve of our second anniversary.

So on to business: Every now and then I'll hear from a pseudo-friend or a reader complaining that I gripe too much about rude behavior. It's what you do that counts more than what you say, they argue.

The complainants usually tell me that rudeness is a side effect of dealing with the stresses of everyday life - the suggestion being that rudeness can't be helped. Something makes you feel out of sorts? Take it out on your co-workers or friends or neighbors. They deserve to feel miserable just like you, right? Feeling superior to a colleague, or an underling, or a supervisor? Talk smack about them to your peers. Why not? It'll make you feel better about yourself, right?

And besides, the critics usually ask me, when has a bad attitude or a good one really cost or helped someone respectively in an everyday life scenario.

I get the question. It goes to my Karma post from earlier this week. After you see people get away with behaving badly for so long, you start to believe that there are no consequences for being a jerk. Look at all the pro atheletes who are jerks but are excused because they're so good at their jobs.

But there are consequences. I know this. You know this. We may not always like to admit it, because we see bad behavior going unpunished.

This guy though? He knows it now, and I'll bet he believes it. Click the link if you have time. If you don't, here's the abbreviated version: an airport administrator from California was being considered for the top job at the Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale International Airport in the Greater Miami area. He had it in the bag, insiders say. And then some nasty emails he wrote about his possible future employer surfaced. He bashed the Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale outfit. He bashed the county administrator. He was downright scornful. Now it looks like his rude tone in those messages might have cost him the job. He may have been right in his criticisms, but there's a way to address legitimate gripes. Take them to the source. Don't brag to friends and colleagues about how terrible you believe another person to be. Go to that person and tell them they have serious issues that need to be repaired. And if you can't do that without risking your behind, then suck it up. Jaw-jacking to anyone who'll listen about how much wiser and sharper you are is just going to cost you.

I won't get corny or sappy about justice prevailing. This isn't that deep. But there really are consequences... sometimes.

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12 Comments:

  • In all the years I lived So Fla (I moved in 1998 after 20) it was less the norm and more of the exception at first to meet truly "rude" people. Over time tho' outright rudness became the "accepted" (expected?) norm -- so I left!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:49 PM  

  • "And besides, the critics usually ask me, when has a bad attitude or a good one really cost or helped someone respectively in an everyday life scenario."

    The critics are wrong.

    Every now and again in my life, I've lashed out. I've seen hurt on the face of the objects of my ire. I'm talking about random encounters here. Lashing isn't my nature. Somewhat innately, and as I get older, consciously, I smile when I see strangers. Be they clerks, people in grocery stores, pick your venue.

    I've discovered that there's sometimes a moment of confusion on their face. Then, they can't help themselves, they smile. Not always, but often enough. That smile I lured helped them and me.

    By Blogger Dave, at 8:13 PM  

  • As the Dixie Chicks have discovered- and lots of other people too- Freedom of Speech doesnot mean freedom from the consequences of that speech.

    By Anonymous og, at 8:53 PM  

  • What goes around, comes around. It just doesn't happen immediately all the time.

    By Blogger The CEO, at 9:23 PM  

  • Wow. I linked here from Dave, and I'm glad I did. Good post.

    Judi

    By Blogger emmapeelDallas, at 11:06 PM  

  • Suggest you tell those gripers that rudeness CAN be helped - it's just as much a choice as smiling/being polite etc. Now I know you know that, James, but it sure sounds like they think they don't, & need to!

    Unlike they say - what you do say every bit as much as what you do. & they'd better add up, not cancel each other out.

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 7:23 AM  

  • For many years now, I've tried to teach my kids not to go out of their way to "get even." It just doesn't pay, in the long run. Why? Because you expend so much energy trying to do something to get back at someone for a perceived slight and odds are, your plans will backfire and all will have been for naught. I prefer to sit back, (pretend I'm a duck) and let things slide. If "getting even" was meant to happen, it will, in its own goo time, usually better than I could ever have planned and I won't have used up all kinds of energy for nothing!
    And, being polite, a smile here and there, usually brings about a similar response too. Ok, not always, but usually it works that way.

    By Blogger Jeni, at 8:07 AM  

  • Those who complain that you gripe too much about rude behavior should seek entertainment elsewhere from a column called Urban Etiquette.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 9:10 AM  

  • Well said all around

    By Blogger Cazzie!!!, at 6:46 AM  

  • what a maroony!!

    By Blogger Claudia, at 3:14 PM  

  • you rule ;)

    By Blogger savannah, at 4:42 PM  

  • Reminds me of an old tshirt that said something like be careful of the people you step on to climb up the ladder they may be the same arses you have to kiss when you come back down.Happy belated anniversary. Sorry I am late but just getting caught up after a couple of internetless weeks moving.

    BD

    By Blogger briliantdonkey, at 1:36 AM  

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