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Be polite to rude strangers – it’s oddly thrilling.

Mother was one for the manners. She taught us boys to hold open the door for women, say always please and thank you, write thank you notes for received gifts, and to stand when a lady approaches a table.* One of the hardest rules of etiquette was to never return rudeness with rudeness. Miss Manners is on on this one as well. Mother said it as a sign of good Christian upbringing (turn the other cheek) while Father saw it as ‘being a gentleman’ and Miss Manners adds it as ‘shaming them’ or ‘not stooping’ or ‘setting a good example”. Only the latter admitted one’s first emotional reaction to receiving rudeness is wanting to release a well-phrased acrimonious put-down or better yet hit the bastard. I suspect the author of these one hundred tidbits of advice is going on the notion ‘improving your life’ means not raising the chance of having your clock punched in an altercation that comes from returning the rude-ball.

We are not more rude than previous generations, but with the examples of Tonald Dump and his minions what once was considered shameful behavior in society is extoled as signs of confidence and power. Shame on him and on the social media channels where rudeness can be done anonymously.

Urs Truly tries very hard to keep Mother/Miss Manners in mind when some rude-boy or harridan is cheeky or downright hostile to me in public. Stooping to their level doesn’t really ‘work’ and frankly I am not good at it, so why would I wish to go into the ring on their terms? Ignoring the deplorable one with body language to suggest they are not worth my while sometimes works, but it often it gives them the smug feeling of ‘winning’ for not having drawn me into their realm. Being polite and engaging them in conversation (always in a calm and slow thoughtful prosody) is probably the best bet when caught in such a situation. By saying something they won’t disagree with startles and disarms them of their ‘me vs. you’ stance. Asking them questions as if interviewing a native for National Geographic Magazine helps de-escalate the situation – and bores them. When met with polite engagement and conversation nasty types become bored or flustered and leave in a huff which is what is best. After all I have no real interest in getting to know them, I just want them to go away – preferably without hitting me.

It feels good sensing a ‘victory’ when a yelling Yahoo leaving angry I’ve delayed them on their way to their book-burning. Yes it is oddly thrilling to be polite to ill-mannered folks. I suspect punching them would be more thrilling but with more cost.

How do you handle or address rudeness in public? Do you engage? Do you ignore? Do you hit them about the head with your purse? Do tell.

*Some of these quaint manners are now considered archaic if not downright patronizing. Manners change with the times, but I stand firm on the ‘please and thank you’ and the writing of thank you notes.

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November 2022

Spo-Reflections 2006-2018