Posted by: krpooler | February 18, 2011

Let’s Talk About Manners & How Much They Matter.


    In the world of writing, we are supposed to bring the reader into our story so that they can experience whatever emotion we are portraying. This may evoke a certain level of discomfort. When was the last time you read a book  you had to stop reading because it was too uncomfortable? The Slap:A Novel by Christos Tsiolkas is getting a lot of buzz about the degree of discomfort it creates. It is a story about contemporary middle -class life centered around the act of a man slapping a child who is not his own at a neighborhood barbecue and the series of repercussions that result. But if we are uncomfortable, we can simply choose to stop reading that particular book.

      What happens in our day-to-day life when we are confronted with someone who is rude,discourteous and downright ill-mannered? Let me take this one more step.  What happens if you are obligated to interact with this person by virtue of your professional role?

      My nurse practitioner friend and colleague,Sue posed this question on Facebook and when I commented,she challenged me to blog about it. So let’s get some discussion going because this is a real issue that sticks in the craw of many professionals in the service sector.

     Sue is a respected,seasoned professional who offers her patients the benefit of  many years of experience and sound clinical judgement. So you would think that any patient who comes to her for health care would respect that and appreciate that there is someone of her caliber to provide relief for whatever is ailing them. It seems that one day a patient launched into a string of expletives because she asked him to put on a mask in the office, followed by refusal to follow her instructions. She was so incredulous at his rudeness that she felt compelled to get some insights from others.

    Now I know, everyone is fighting their own battle, there is a reason why people act the way they do and rude people reflect more on themselves than on the people they are targeting BUT (and I’m told, it’s what comes after the but that counts) Whoa~ enough is enough. While the majority of my patients are courteous and grateful, in this case, the patient(customer)) was NOT  right.

     I had a similar encounter where a male patient rolled his eyes and sarcastically replied,”Yeah,Whatever” to my history taking attempts. When I fed back his obvious resistance to my questioning, he rose to his full 6’3″, 300 lb frame and started pointing his finger at me,

“I’m sick of repeating the same information over and over again” (Yes, I agree that can be annoying, but a little manners please. I was only doing my job.) 

    So I made a judgement call right then and there.

   ” Sir,I will not be talked to like this. I am leaving the room and you will have to schedule another appointment with Dr XYZ.”

     He followed me down the hall,with raised voice and clenched fist and left just in time to avoid me calling Security. 

     One week later, I received a  note of apology written on a card with a sketch of a flower arrangement on the front. A happy ending in this case. I have seen him since and he has been pleasant and cooperative. That’s not always the case as with Sue’s patient.

     So while rudeness, poor manners and discourteous behavior may make a good story for a book, real-life encounters with ill-mannered people especially people we are serving require more of us than simply closing the book. I can only hope I never do that to others.

What are your experiences with ill-mannered people and how do you deal with them?

 Thoughts? Reactions?

 Let’s talk~


  1. Truth? I do better when I think or write about such situations than when I’m actually in the midst of them. My initial impulse to respond is rarely civil so my best course of action is to keep silent, turn, and leave. Most people who yell inappropriately don’t subside with discussion. It depends upon the situation, people, etc. I never had a patient behave in an ugly manner, but in my non-professional life, I have run into people who behave badly. No matter what motivates them, I try to remember the responsibility for their behavior is theirs, and mine is mine.

    • Katherine, I know what you mean about thinking of great responses after the fact when walking away in the heat of the moment is the best thing to do. Wayne, my husband says, you don’t have to take back any words if you haven’t said anything. Your last line really sums it up nicely.In other words, “send the mail to the right address” and don’t take on someone else’s responsibility. Well said! Appreciate your comments.

  2. In two pieces, here’s my two cents.

    I run into gads of rudeness in my professional life; to me and to my staff. In each instance I try to be patient. When that runs out, I simply say “if you don’t lower your voice, I am going to have to end this conversation until you can control yourself”..or “repeating yourself isn’t going to get this resolved or change anything; take a minute and let’s start again” (I am a glutton for punishment).

    In my personal life it’s different; the rudeness of family isn’t tolerated.Period. The rudeness of strangers depends on the situation and surroundings; do I need something from this person? Rude Cashiers are challenged with “Busy?-Bad day? sure seems like it”; Rude stranger are ignored; I just don’t have the interest in using energy to combat their personal problems.

    But to be honest, rude isn’t the word I would feel most uncomfortable with.

    Have you ever seen the Television show “what would you do?” One episode showed a staged situation where a shop keeper made racial overtones to a customer. What would/did the nearby customers do? What do you do when it goes beyond ‘rude’ and borders on ‘socially unacceptable’?

    • Dawn Marie,

      That’s worth a lot more than two cents. I like how you broke it all down and described your responses based on the situation. I think it helps to have a plan to handle these inevitable circumstances so a semblance of control can be maintained when you really feel like throttling the person, which of course would be “socially unacceptable!” I have caught glimpses of that TV program. It’s sad how true to life the circumstances are. Thanks for stopping by and adding some spice to the discussion!

  3. You’ve pinpointed an interesting problem, Kathy. I don’t encounter this much now in my line of work, but I certainly have in past jobs; to say it’s “unpleasant” would be a gross understatement! Rudeness seems to bring out rudeness, and then things escalate into anger. I think far too many people are carrying burdens they find difficult to manage — things like money worries, health concerns, family difficulties, and fear — and they take their emotions out on the innocent people they come into contact with. I say that NOT to excuse their behavior, for rudeness should never be excused. I think perhaps we all need to remember to be kinder and gentler with each other!

    • Hi Deb,
      Now there’s another perspective ~being kinder and gentler to one another~ in the midst of all this rudeness,etc. The topic is certainly one we’ve all had experience with. It seems we all have burdens but that doesn’t give any of us the right to be rude to one another. As always, I appreciate your perspective. Thanks for stopping by and adding to the discussion!

  4. Well my darling Kathy, thanks for taking up the gauntlet. My mask illustration on my rant was one little tiny example of the things that cross my path every day.
    Memorable events of the last week include a cell phone ring-tone that is a blasting F-bombs, a house guest who declines offered food because “you might have used an unnatural ingredient” instead of saying No Thanks, a clod who finds it necessary to correct the grammar of educated adults engaged in the most casual of conversation, the banshee who screamed at me on the phone because her paperwork was not completed less than 24 hours after it was handed to me for a non-urgent matter, ETC ETC ETC. We have lost something as Amercians. We have lost an ability to be civil and courteous. A foreigner said it well enough to me when he politely observed we have lost our honor. WOW! Does that hit it?
    So what do we do? I have found it necessary on my own time to refuse to associate with draining people. Just can’t do it. In my professional life I have come to the conclusion that sometimes you just have to say Good Bye and let them go down the road and bless somebody else. Life is too short to put up with this crap. I have spent a long time trying to figure out how to tolerate BS with a smile and while that is a wonderful skill there comes a time to turn these folks loose.
    I attempt to only surround myself out of work with folks with good energy because the others suck the very life out of you. I am reading a book right now entitiled Emotional Freedom. The author classifies 5 categories of what she calls “Emotional Vampires”. What a great term and I think that says it all, along with stategies for avoiding them. Keep talking baby.

    • Sue, You have really summed up this reality of life very powerfully. It seems to be pervasive for whatever reason. And the reasons don’t really matter. I am struck with the thought that we all have responsibility to create our own happiness in life and your decision to surround yourself with life-giving, life-affirming people, places and things is spot on. I love your statement “time to turn these folks loose” really resonates. Lots of great discussion here. See what you started. Yes,let’s all keep talking.

  5. What a stimulating post, Kathy! I have a strategy that works, sometimes: because I’m a writer, I switch over from being outraged to thinking, “hey, I should be taking notes. This is GOOD.” But recently it barely sufficed: I was talking with the billing office of my HMO. The clerk there thought that I would calm down or shut up or go away if she employed one simple technique: raising her voice and repeating everything she had just said, talking over me in an endless stream of assertions (okay, shouting) until I finally just gave up. Which of course I didn’t. I remember saying loudly into the phone: “Diane, please stop talking! Diane, can you hear me? Hello? Hello? Diane?” and SHE NEVER STOPPED. These were landlines so I know she heard me. I finally just put the phone down on the desk and walked away. I don’t know what she did or how she finished up. I am still pissed. What a psychopath. Who “won”? I guess she did, because obviously she didn’t care about me or see me as a human. If I had been a dog in her path she would have kicked me out of her way. So Diane, guess what? You’re what writers call “material”.

    • I love your creative thinking, Lynne! Our fellow man definitely provides a wealth of “material” and I will keep that in mind the next time someone rocks my boat. All it takes is one snarky remark to set things in motion. I’ll grab a pen and paper and start writing. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your great idea!

  6. Will try this again. I guess I had to subscribe officially before I could post.
    Thanks Kathy for taking up this gauntlet as the problem is so much bigger than my experience with the person who refused to don a mask when ill. It really points to a shameful point in American history where we are sadly lacking civility. Oh how I could wish it were just about that mask but in the last week alone I have had encounters with people that frankly leave me speechless. The cell phone ring tone that fouls the air with loud repetitious F-bombs, the house guest who replies to an offer of food with “I couldn’t possibly have any as you may have used unnatural ingredients” instead of No Thanks, the clod who interrupts a conversation of well educated women to correct grammar, the screaming woman who wants a prior authorization form completed for her mother NOW when I was handed the form less than 12 hours prior. As if I work at McDonald’s and this is a hamburger. This list is never ending. And while I appreciate the gentle approaches of other contributors, the reality is we have lost something as a culture. A foreign acquaintance of mine says we have lost our “honor”. Wow, that is profound and I think quite true. So… how do we get it back? For me I have had to create emotional distance between myself and these folks that suck the proverbial life right out of you. Professionally I have had to face that some people just gotta go.
    When they leave the practice I say to myself God Bless You because their departure is a huge blessing for me. I used to take that personally but not any more. Life truly is too short to surround ourselves with negative energy if we have another choice. May the Lord help me to see a situation quicker so that if I am unable to share good stuff and have it received and help a person with it, to be able to walk away! Amen.

    • Sue, I received your first reply but this is even richer. Yes, basic common courtesy is not too much to ask no matter who you are , what your station in life is, where you are or what you are doing. May we all have the strength and grace to discern when to walk away. Perhaps if we all said a little prayer for those who are not able to maintain civility, we would all be better off. Amen.

  7. Hi Kathy! it’s good that you are touching some serious issues we have to deal with in the society. I have always come across some great people(like yourself) who have been so close to me. I also came across trashy people. They could be all over, anywhere on the face of the earth. I met many of them in my own counry, some in UK, Africa and now across here too. I never lost my manners. I would say,” I do not have to go down to their level. My job is to save a woman, to save a baby.” When I moved to a small conservative christian all white(almost all)town on my own, I went to a nursery to buy a plant. From the other end, near the entrance door, I heard a woman asking the owner,” what is that coloured woman doing here”?. A few weeks later this same old woman landed in ER, haemorrhaging..I ended up doing D&C. I could have said something as stupid as she did. The problem is deep. It starts as the egg is formed. Lots of transformations, molding and remolding as the child grows up. Teachers, parents, community, communications, tv everything plays its role. Personally I think its a lost call and life has to go on. It is my choice, your choice how to react. Things happen to cause you to feel and act the way you do. Because this connection between what happened and how you feel and act is made instantly, you may believe you have no control over your feelings and behavior.

  8. Hi Smita,
    Thanks for adding so much to the discussion. Your description of the rude lady who eventually ended up under your care is a powerful example of the challenges we face. Also you have traveled all over the world and have found this everywhere. In the end, we all have our reasons to act the way we do and some of us have more control than others over our responses. Like you say “life has to go on”and we all have choices. You’ve brought up some great points to ponder. Thanks,as always, for stopping by and commenting.

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