Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rudeness Is Intention, Not Action

It seems like a lot of people have a set belief that X action is rude, and they're quick to call out others for it. Shoot, I've even alerted others that something they said could be interpreted as rude, in a way I found polite, only to have someone else scold me.

But this isn't (exactly) about me. This is about what I've noticed in life.

I've noticed that rudeness is relative.

For some people, in some cultures—even in some parts of the USA—any kind of bluntness is rude. If you don't couch everything in a sweet cutesy "politeness", you're unspeakably rude. But for others, that insincere nicety is rude.

If your hair looks like a crow's nest, I'm one of those people who's naturally inclined to say as much. I've learned to adjust it to something more innocuous, like "How was your morning?", which can get the full story of you didn't sleep well and woke up late and didn't get a chance to brush your hair. (Or that you got a new hair stylist, which might get me asking who just so I can avoid that person.)

But don't expect me to feed you what you want to hear. If your hair's a mess, and you're looking for someone to deny it, I'm the wrong person to talk to for moral support. Even if I get the clue (which is unlikely), I find dishonesty rude. So if you say "My hair looks terrible," I'll agree and remind you that you can brush it later, not soothe your pride.

I live in the southeastern United States, a part of the country renowned for its "hospitality" (meaning the cultural norm is to be sugary sweet to your face, no matter what's said behind your back). You might suspect that my bluntness costs me friends.

Actually not. I have a lot of friends, and I get along with a lot of people. (Probably in part because I'm as willing to volunteer "That color likes you" as I am to give a forthright opinion when addressed.) From others' comments, I really think that "rudeness" and "politeness" have more to do with intention than action.

See, I've been told by some folks that they stopped thinking me rude when they realized I expected them to speak to me the same way I spoke to them.

What is rudeness but treating others in a way you would never allow yourself to be treated?

What is politeness but treating others the way you want them to treat you?



ETA: Just realized that this headache is actually a budding migraine, so please let me know if something doesn't quite make sense. (I only started getting migraines this year, and I'm the only one in my family who gets them, so I'm still working on recognizing the warning signs.)

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