I have recently been the victim of phone harassment. It’s a nasty and slightly scary experience. But what I really cannot get my head around is the intentional rudeness. I appreciate that anyone who is warped enough to get a kick out of ringing up strangers is unlikely to have the kind of moral code that suggests that calling people names and swearing at them when they don’t fall for your scam is not the done thing. But it got me thinking about rudeness per se. It is not confined to the pondlife calling from boiler room scams in Europe, we see it everywhere. From the van driver who called me a “fat twat” (at least he knew how to rhyme though I suspect that was unintentional) when he opened his door in front of me car causing a rather impressive emergency stop on my part to the scions of industry who publically dismiss their paying customers: Michael O’Leary and Gerald Ratner spring to mind. (I have a rather amusing story about GR, his rather impressive mother & the ladies loos at the Grosvenor Park Lane but probably ought to keep it to myself.)
Why go out of your way to be rude? What does is garner you? We all lose our tempers, we all get frustrated and say something we later regret, or possibly not if it is a particularly good put down. But as a general rule most of us have worked out that if we are pleasant to other people, they are pleasant back. We like people to be nice to us. We can tell when the person on the other end of the phone is smiling, it really does come through their voice. I have done more than my share as the public face of an organisation and no, the customer is not always right, but the customer always deserves respect, particularly if I want it in return. A denial with a smile leaves a taste a lot less bitter than a surly refusal.
But worse than that, the more unpleasantly we behave the more unpleasant we become. I am not suggesting that every grumpy sales assistant is descended from Dorian Gray with a picture in the attic and an ever hardening heart but try an experiment. It is quite revealing. Spend one day, make it tomorrow, don’t procrastinate or you won’t do it, and be nice, all day. Make a conscious effort not to say no to anything unless you really have to, smile every time to answer the phone, be pleasant and engage in conversation with people in the queue (yes EVEN if you live in London!); put your change in the charity box; help the mother carry her pram up the stairs. Then when you put your feet up at the end of the day ask yourself how your day went. I promise you it went better than the day before