Sunday, February 26, 2012

Handling Rudeness

There is something very grounding about visiting friends whom you’ve known since early childhood. The bonds formed in our tender early years are galvanized and dependable. We grow up and face our own challenges, go our own different ways, yet somehow when we reconnect, we somehow manage to pick up where we left off, in many cases. I recently had the opportunity to visit with several childhood friends for a wonderful reunion. A small number of close friends and family were getting together for dinner at a private house; food was prepared; all was well. In the end, for one reason or another, only half the people showed up. The other half either called at the last minute with their regrets, or they simply didn’t show up. At the end of the evening, one guest remarked, “This is the rudest community I have ever lived in!” She was nonplussed that people would accept an invitation and then simply not show up or bother to call. I did not disagree, and it gave me pause to think about all the topics I have covered on these pages during the last four years. Yes, I have given good information about what to do in various situations, but I haven’t really addressed how to handle situations that are just plain irretrievably bad.

I have come to the conclusion that most of us face such predicaments from time to time, especially with family and close friends. As with any uncomfortable situation, we are in a quandary as to what to do. Wouldn’t it be nice if we simply had an ‘eject’ button and we could extricate ourselves from unpleasantness? Alas, that isn’t possible. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Don’t fall into the trap of engagement. Just because people all around you may be falling into etiquette quicksand, steer clear.

2. Do be sure to keep your commitments. Why discredit yourself?

3. Planning ahead avoids scheduling conflicts. Avoid the avoidable.

4. Have compassion for those who are taking the whole turn of events so seriously. This too shall pass.

5. Let go of the negative energy produced as a by-product of disrespect. Holding on to it only prolongs the mental anguish.

6. Be respectful of and patient with everyone, even those who are behaving boorishly.

7. Learn from others’ mistakes. There’s no point to growing any older without growing any smarter.

8. Always remember that you never know the whole story. Avoid judging others, no matter how egregious their behavior.

9. After family functions, where children have been exposed to ghastly behavior, be sure to sit down the following day for a debriefing. Otherwise, they will get the message from you that this is an acceptable way to act.

10. Don’t hold grudges. Forgive and forget. If you have experienced emotional pain, pray that no one else needs to. This need be not an eye-for-an-eye world.

I find it is usually best to simply ignore unacceptable behavior and insensitive people. I don’t give a second thought to editing guest lists. If the guilty party offends you personally, draw them aside and speak with them privately. Confronting someone in front of others is a tactic weak people resort to as a way to embarrass them. The results can be cruel and intentionally mean. Consider for a moment that the other person may be dealing with a personal issue. That’s almost always the case.

Friendships require nurturing. That goes for friendships within one’s own family. I know some people who fight within the family unit; but when a real emergency or crisis comes along, they are the staunchest supporters. That’s the real glue that keeps a family together. However, aberrant behavior is not necessary to begin with. Just because you are family or a close friend does not give you a license to be rude.