Saturday, October 26, 2013

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

This is a short and very telling tale about the power of teaching by example. However, this time the shoe appears to be on the other foot! A niece related this to me, and I think it is very illuminating!

“I recently stopped at Dunkin' Donuts and held the door for a woman and her grandson, who was repeating the words "chocolate sprinkles" over and over again, obviously excited for the donut he was about to get. While we were standing in line she realized she didn't have her wallet and moved out of line to look for it in her purse. After I watched her empty her entire purse out to no avail, I bought a chocolate sprinkles donut, handed it to her and walked over to wait for my sandwich. The little boy came running over to say thank you, and I looked over to see his grandmother standing there shaking her head. He walked back over to her saying "she's so nice!" The grandmother looked at him and, I kid you not, responded with "yeah well I don't need her charity."

“The little boy's answer? "She was being nice, grandma. Maybe you should act like her."

“ I muttered to myself, “Clearly I knew you weren't in need of my charity, considering I watched you step out of a brand new Benz and search for your wallet in your Louis Vuitton purse, you crow.
At least your five-year old grandson understands how the world works.”

Isn’t it contemptibly poor how self-centered the world has become. Yet, notice the innocence still preserved in the child, which he expresses as a pearl of wisdom. Out of the mouths of babes, as the expression goes. This vignette illustrates the point that connecting with other people is the most important need we have as human beings. This is instinctual, and apparently this young boy’s parents taught him, more than likely through example, that being nice is the right thing to do. The reason it is the right thing to do is the simple fact that it makes it easier for us to connect in a friendly, kindly manner.

The venomous retort from the woman was rude and embarrassing for everyone around her. She illustrates the opposite end of the spectrum from her grandson. There is a major disconnect in this dynamic, and in this case, one for which one can be thankful. Behavioral patterns are generally passed from generation to generation, as that is the primary way in we learn. This little story appears to show clearly that unhealthy cycles can be broken. My sense is that we are all guilty of behaving like barbarians from time to time, and when we do slip up, out actions do not go unnoticed.

I am reminded of a line from H.M. The Queen when asked once how she learned to be Queen. Her reply was delivered in her usual dry wit, “I learned the same way as monkeys – from my parents”. As children we are sponges and everything our parents do and say, we mimic. If we are presented with bad examples of how to behave we take these with us through life. A young person growing up with rude or inappropriate behavior will face the consequences in both social and business relationships. The ways of getting on in the world that our parents show us serve as our filter for the world, one that we assume to acceptable and appropriate. This is obviously not always the case. In our seemingly time-starved world, we rush around like the granny above, allowing our egos to run amuck, and in our wake we leave heaps of selfish behaviors and rudeness – all for our children to devour.

I hope this short story helps us to remember times when we were either the victim or perpetrator of such outbursts. There may even be times when one remembers simply witnessing such behavior and wondering what to do. As I see it, no matter what our position, we can stop perpetuating this rudeness. By drawing the offender aside privately and expressing our feelings about the rudeness, suddenly a solution is possible. Sometimes we need a gentle reminder that we have stepped over the line.

As we can see, the grandson did a fine job of understanding and explaining to his grandmother just how rude she was. He did quietly, and I am going to guess very effectively. When we catch ourselves being rude, we can apologize. Such acts of kindness can ease the bite of rudeness in a heartbeat.