• Susie Wilson

ways to shut down bad behaviour

It's the "Age of Insolence." Here's how to move your moral compass in the right direction, and cope.


On any given day, you could be on the receiving end of rude behaviour. Even scrolling through comments online can make your stomach churn when viewing controversial topics. Rude behaviour, it seems, is ubiquitous. It can happen anywhere, anytime, and take the form of interrupting, judging, admonishing, ignoring someone or talking down to others.

Some days, it can feel like we are living in "the age of insolence." And it's not simply a lack of manners. According to one research study, rude behaviour can even spread like a virus.

Why is this happening? Stress, political and cultural differences as well as social media can add fuel to the fire. In a recent study done by the American Psychology Association, nearly four in 10 adults (38 per cent) said that political and cultural discussions on social media caused them stress. Social media is not the only thing that is having a deleterious effect on our behaviour. We are also losing the ability to have face-to-face conversations and therefore fail to make meaningful connections with others. It's important to remember that all of us no matter who we are and at what stage of life need to be respected, valued and heard.

These three universal needs are the key to unlocking authentic communication, and healing painful, high-stress conversations.

When confronted with rude or toxic behaviour, remind yourself to respond in a respectful way. As difficult as this may seem in the moment, this acknowledges that the other person has been heard. Most rude behaviour stems from a place of pain or a negative past experience. Reacting respectfully does not mean that you condone the behaviour; it's an opportunity for you to act with conscious compassion.

Remember, it's not your job to "fix" people or to turn around their erroneous opinions. Connecting with people by learning to communicate with sincerity and esteem for others is an indispensable skill that will lessen your stress and solidify your relationships in all aspects of life.

The next time you encounter rude behaviour, try the following:

1. Don't take it personally.

The key to keeping your cool when treated poorly is this: it's not about you. Remember, behaviour is most often shaped by our past, influenced by a preconditioned mindset that stems from fear and the memories of previous experiences. Take a step back and recognise what's propelling these actions. Thinking of what is lurking behind an offensive comment (a past experience; they may be suffering and not doing well; or they are just simply having a rough day) will allow you to detach from the situation and empathise.

2. Pause, and take a breath.

Knee-jerk reactions never augur well. Make an effort to remain calm by taking a deep breath or two, and focus on your area of control and influence. In other words, do not take the bait. If you do, it is certain that things will escalate, quickly, and in the wrong direction.

3. Ask questions show your concern.

Switch gears by asking questions, particularly if you have a strong relationship with the person. Simply asking, "Are you OK? You seem to be very frustrated or distracted," can shift the conversation in a positive way. Asking questions will also buy you some time to calm down from the initial shock of the offensive behaviour and allow you to understand the situation with better clarity.

4. Don't sweat the small stuff.

Take the high road. As much as it might feel good to lash out at the moment, it is a very poor strategy. Are your buttons being pushed? Refer to point number one again: don't take it personally. Once you regain your composure, remind yourself of what, and particularly whom you are grateful for.

5. State your view. Then let it go.

Agree to disagree. Respond in a way that defends your belief and delivers it in a respectful tone. Let the person know that their behaviour or words upset you. If they continue, ask them to stop, and then move on.

6. Find a space for compassion.

An old adage offers us this wisdom: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." If you can practice this sage advice the next time you are challenged by belligerent behaviour, the situation can shift. When you operate from a place of compassion, you may notice that incidents of rude behaviour in your everyday dealings lessen. If rude behaviour is contagious, then human kindness is the cure.