From Our Readers Can We No Longer Depend On The Kindness Of Strangers (Or Anyone, Really)? From Our Readers

When did being rude to others become acceptable? Whether it’s a husband making a snarky comment to his wife at the grocery store, or a person chit chatting on their phone while ordering food, it seems people have no qualms about showcasing their rude behavior these days. In fact, I would go as far as to say that being disrespectful to others is now the norm.

I have been mulling over this observation the last couple days after being on the receiving end of someone’s incredibly rude behavior. For people like myself, who are aware of the world around us and choose to treat people as we would like to be treated, it is baffling to see other people being so disrespectful, condescending, or plain old mean to others.

The idea of treating others the way you would like to be treated resonated with me more than it ever has, this past weekend. I consider myself to be a polite person. I open doors for people, say “please” and “thank you”, and try be patient when circumstances arise that aren’t under my control, like encountering long lines at the store, or flight delays. I smile and say “hi” to people walking down the street and have no problem giving up my seat for an elderly person. I’m not boasting about my behavior, I just consider these things to be the right things to do. Sadly, I feel as though I am one of the few.

I traveled back to Chicago for my baby shower this weekend. It was a short trip that started with a five hour flight delay and ended with an exceptionally rude interaction with an airline desk agent (the actual baby shower and time in between these two events was awesome). Flight delays suck. It’s a fact. No one wants to be thrown off schedule or have to sit in a boring airport. But it is what it is. My husband and I were in-line to try and get on a stand by flight after being told our flight was delayed, due to a part that needed to be replaced. While waiting in-line, I noticed the way people reacted to news of the delay, as well as the way they treated the airline attendant. It ranged from one man ranting that five hours of his time was NOT free to another, wondering why they couldn’t just get the missing part at Walmart. Sadly, the eye rolling, huffing and abrasive behavior toward the attendants was the go-to reaction from most of the passengers. Even though the missing part was not the fault of the attendant and the delay prevented us from flying on a faulty plane – which is probably a good thing. But for them it was all about “their time” and “their needs” being met, with little regard to anyone else. Needless to say, none of these people were on their best behavior, or even cordial behavior at that. I silently wondered about their behavior and tried to be as polite as possible to the attendant, who, at this point, was probably having a terrible day at work.

However, what really got to me was what I experienced on my return flight. I am six months pregnant and very uncomfortable. Swollen feet, achy back, huge stomach, you name it. I decided to go up to the desk agent and as what the airline’s policy was for pregnant women and pre-boarding. I had zero expectations. I was just curious to learn what the policy was. The attendant’s response stung and left me feeling completely baffled as to her behavior. In an incredibly condescending tone she responded “Ah, not unless you’re in a wheel chair. Why would a pregnant woman be allowed to pre-board? What, is it considered a disability?” I was floored. I calmly and politely responded, “Well, I’ve read that some airlines are kind enough to allow pregnant women a few minutes to settle in, as it’s a bit harder to get to your seat and get situated.” She turned to her colleague, rolled her eyes and laughed. I said “thank you” and walked away.

I had never felt so disrespected. Nor, had I ever experienced someone being so blatantly rude to me for no reason. A polite “I’m sorry, but it is not our policy to allow pregnant women to pre-board” would have sufficed. I was baffled at how completely unaware she was of her behavior, and how uncalled for her response was. I honestly felt hurt. After all, I had never done anything to this person, so why was she so mean to me? My husband tried to comfort me with “people are just rude these days.” It may be true, but it is not okay! I spoke to the airline about the incident. Mind you, this is a major airline that we use several times a year. The customer service people seemed just as clueless. They just kept restating their policy. They did not understand that it was not the policy I was upset about, it was the uncalled for behavior of the employee.

I’m not sure if there is anything that can be done to change this new trend. All I know is despite other people’s behavior, I can only continue to be kind to others and hope that that kindness gets passed on to the next person. Like a big blanket of kindness that will cover the earth. Hey, it could happen. :)

Ariela Coles is a Health and Wellness professional living in the Bay Area. Ariela considers herself a wellness nerd and is passionate about helping people become happy and healthy! In addition, she is obsessed with her dog, McGee, as well as all things London. Originally from New Orleans, Ariela also suffers from severe wanderlust, which has led her to visit and live in a number of cities around the world. For news, observations, tips and tools, on anything related to wellness, travel and life, check out her Blog, website, or follow her on Twitter.

Featured image via Shutterstock

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  1. I don’t get it either. Everywhere I go I try to be as kind and polite as possible especially to the people serving me. I hate when I get rude comments or looks in return or whatever. But there are kind people out there. Take heart, I encounter them everyday. I think what’s so shocking is the degree of the rudeness, that’s the trend that frightens me. Some people are a lot more shallow than they used to be, take this the customer is always right thing a little too far or this feeling of power behind the counter too far as well. But I always like to think of that Mr. Rogers quote when he’d witness horrible things happening and his mother would reassure him “look at all the people helping” (er something like that). They’re out there. Just continue being kind.

  2. I work at Starbucks, and if I make even the slightest mistake on someone’s order, or even say it wrong when I’m clarifying it, I get incredibly rude responses from customers. I’ve been called stupid, incompetent, “maybe you should have stayed in school”, (meanwhile I’m working this job to put myself through school) and plenty other things. Its just the norm now, according to my boss, and I have to put up with it, smile, and be polite regardless. And sadly, the rude customers are starting to outweigh the nice ones.

  3. I have to respectively disagree. I think people are still kind to strangers and I’ve actually witnessed more altruistic behavior lately than in years past. Your situation may have been unique because the desk attendants were stressed with the flight being delayed and I’m sure many people were unhappy. I’m not sure since I wasn’t there. I’ve been trying to give people the benefit of the doubt. Who knows what a person’s mood might be so if they are rude or insensitive it may be because they are having a bad day and taking it out on those surrounding them at that given moment. I try to focus on the positive then dwell on the negative. You are kind and the people you surround yourself with are kind. The only thing we can do is hope that it’s contagious and other people are motivated to be kind as well.

  4. It’s also easier for everyone else on the flight if you let heavily pregnant women get on first – and I say this in the nicest possible way – as it means no one else gets stuck behind them while they try to get into their seat and get settled. It also helps the flight attendants, as if they help you get seated before the other passengers, they can say to the other attendants “Oh, there’s a pregnant woman in that row, you might want to keep an eye out that she doesn’t need anything”

  5. AGREED 100%! I’m a cashier at Walgreens and it amazes me how rude some people can be. I had a woman get mad at me the other day over the fact that we were out of Mentos that were on sale. Then my managers got yelled at because this man’s insurance wouldn’t cover a 90-day prescription so the pharmacy had to fill a 30-day and he claimed he could get everyone in the pharmacy fired over this. Then as the employee I try to be as nice as possible because I do not wish to stoop to their level, but also they will notice if you’re rude and demand to speak to a manager about your behavior. That airport attendant should also have not exhibited that behavior. I think it’s ridiculous that we’re taught throughout our childhood not be rude and to be polite to others, but as adults, it’s normal. Just be nice people. It’s a much better life to live.

  6. Wow! I love to hear stories like that. Just that small act of kindness probably made her week!

  7. I was on a flight home from Chicago this weekend. I ended up being delayed for several hours due to the Sunday snow. I was tired, still had a 3 hr drive ahead of me once my plane landed, and had to be to work the next morning… I knew that I’d most likely end up with about an hour of sleep. I was right. But despite knowing that my next day would be miserable, I decided to make the best of my wait for the flight. I caught up on some reading, people watching, and general laziness. But in my people watching, I noticed the same exact thing you spoke of: rude was the norm. The girl I ended up sitting behind on the plane…she was gorgeous on first glance…til she opened her mouth and all of the vile rudeness flowed forth. She became sarcastic with the flight attendant, who merely asked her to have a seat (after we had been on the plane for a mere two minutes) while the wings were de-iced. She argued that she had every right to stand up while the plane was not moving, to which the attendant tried to patiently explain that when the seat belt light was on, passengers must remain seated for the safety of all on board. The girl proceeded to get very loud, pointed at the attendant, and yelled to all of the passengers” hey! Let’s all thank this nice lady for saving our butts and keeping us safe while we scrape ice off the wings…on the ground!!” A few laughed, a fee shook their heads, and I just wanted to slink into my seat even though I didn’t know the loud girl. It embarrassed me…for humanity in general that this is what we’ve become. Selfish, arrogant, and flat out mean. It’s like a never ending stint in high school in a class of bullies. Horrid. Turns out that rude girl ended up making 6 restroom trips during a 3 hour flight, and returned to her seat rubbing her teeth and wiping her nose. Wish I could blame it all on the coke she must have been snorting, but…well…she has become the norm.

  8. I’m with you. Sometimes I get frustrated and wonder why I’m so nice to people. I mean, I’m just making myself a human doormat, right? Then the other day, I was at work (I work at Starbucks) and a lady came up and ordered a cup of coffee. She was clearly having a really bad day. We talked for a moment, just chit-chat about stress and jobs and whatnot. When she asked how much I said, “It’s a tall coffee. It’s on the house. I want one thing in your day to go well.” She actually started crying. She said, “No one has treated me with that kind of blind kindness in such a long time.” Then she thanked me and left. Now I remember why I’m so nice to people. ^_^

  9. I know how you feel, with the aches and massive stomach. I’m 8 months pregnant (34 weeks exactly), and I have to waddle literally everywhere, and I’m so slow now. I feel bad for people if they get stuck behind me, and even stop to get out of their way so they can pass me. But seriously, some people are beyond rude about it, its quite simple to overtake, but I’ve been shoved out the way and screamed at for daring to walk at my comfortable pace, and not jog so they can walk behind me at theirs. One guy even elbowed me in the face while walking past, just so he could get past me faster.
    And, being pregnant, I need to pee all the time. One of these times, while at the supermarket, one incredibly rude lady slammed the entrance door to the toilets in a elderly couples face, the elderly lady also being in a wheelchair. I ended up having to walk back on myself to hold the door open for them, since this little old man seriously would not be able to open the door and push his wife through at the same time. I can deal with people being rude to me, but I was seriously disgusted that someone could be so rude and impatient that they couldn’t take less than 30 seconds out of their lives to hold open a damned door for someone who needed it. Plus, it always feels nice when you do something like that, especially when you are thanked for it, and you can see they are genuinely grateful.

  10. If only it was this airline you flew with!! Watch this video it will move you.

    http://www.godvine.com/What-This-Airline-Did-for-Its-Passengers-Will-Make-You-Tear-Up-So-Heartwarming-4378.html

  11. It’s baffling, regardless of the rudeness of others, that people blame flight desk people for problems that originate in the plane’s structure. I cannot even.

  12. I think part of the rudeness epidemic is due to people getting confidence confused with arrogance. You know the type: “I’m strong and opinionated, so I get to say whatever I want, however I want, no matter how it hurts others.” People like this don’t realize that being rude and disrespectful is not an exhibition of strength, but rather solid evidence of their immaturity. I mean, it’s cool to state your opinion and stand up for yourself, but it’s never ok to do it in a way that belittles others; that’s just bullying.

    • Yeah, there seems to be a free license to announce how smart and clever you are … that somehow you are the *only* person who has *figured it all out.*

      I had a FB friend who would announce “hey guys, unlike other people, I’m not a sheep! I actually can think for myself! I call it like I see it! LOL!”

      … and yet, when you read what they believe in, it’s so far away from reality and the POV is so affected, critical thinking is obviously absent. And, they say things the purposely evoke a dialog and their end of the argument is filled with “you’re a brainwashed sheep! you’re an idiot!” etc.

      Identifying this as bullying is absolutely correct. Only a bully will knock you down, sit on top of you so you can’t get it up, and then say “Hey! Get up! What’s wrong with you? You promised your friend that you will do an errand for them, so get up! Get up! Why aren’t you getting up? Huh? Huh? So, you’re one of those people who always breaks promises? Huh? Are you? Go ahead. Get up.”

      .. completely obvious to the fact that they are the ones who knocked down and also preventing you from getting up. That is a fascinating perspective to live with.

    • This! This is exactly what I think is happening. I know someone only a few years younger than myself who believes you have to get respect first to return it. They need to show you that they deserve your respect and then you respect them. I was raised that you are respectful to everyone and they in turn will (hopefully) be respectful to you. I never waited for someone to be good to me first and that kind of thought is really disappointing to me. Being a jerk isn’t being tough, it’s just being a jerk.

  13. When I see people acting like that I can’t help but wonder how much better their own quality of life would be if they WEREN’T so occupied with being right no matter what.

    • I used to have a regular who was, quite honestly, the most hateful person I’ve ever met. And I would get mad while he was there and I even asked him to leave once. He was just so verbally abusive. But whenever he would leave, I would feel so sad for him. I mean, the only friend the Grinch had was his poor, captive puppy, right?

  14. I think it depends on where you live. “I open doors for people, say “please” and “thank you”, and try be patient when circumstances arise that aren’t under my control, like encountering long lines at the store, or flight delays. I smile and say “hi” to people walking down the street and have no problem giving up my seat for an elderly person.” Where I am, it’s the norm for people to do the above. Yes, there are people who are rude, but on the whole, people here are nice.

  15. Our culture is becoming increasingly impatient. I blame technology. It seems as if no one has the patience to endure anything. Not a flight delay or a simple, polite question.

    The older I get, the less tolerance I have for rude people. If I see someone being mistreat (like the the desk attendant) I will speak up.

    I understand everyone is going through their own issues but we can’t take it out on others. Instead of yelling at a helpless attendant just commiserate with your fellow flyers. Or tweet it.

  16. I sometimes feel I am the only polite and respectful person left on this planet. It really annoys me when I see people refusing to give their seat up for someone or not holding a door open for someone to walk through. I remember one incident that really made me wonder about a decision I had made – I was living in France at the time. I was on a bus that was completely full and still 20 minutes or so from my destination. An older lady boarded the bus and looked round for a seat. Without hesitation I stood up and offered her my own while everyone else simply looked the other way – even my boyfriend (who was French)! She seemed pretty shocked at me standing up for her. The conclusion I came to at the time was that, as the only Brit on the bus, I was the only one who had been raised correctly. This is probably not true but I was feeling pretty peeved. I was raised to respect my elders and others. Personally, I am kind to others because I am a kind person. I have learned not to expect the same response from others but I will not lower myself to their level.

    • I guess it is still depending on the situations and people. I am french and would always stand up and leave my seat to the benefit of an elderly, disabled, pregnant person. However I experienced a couple of times rejections to my politness, for instance, that old lady who took the fact I offered her my seat as a way to highlight her age and condition in front of others (oh, well, I tkink Because all she said was “Who the hell are you? I am not to be taken care of!”).

      I have lived in Ireland and I am currently living in Germany. I do not feel people are more or less polite, but they all have different ways to show it.

      One of the differencies I like to share with friends: the moment when you enter your work place or your office.
      In France you will have to greet every single coworker one by one (hand shaking, a little word or else) and make sure nobody is left aside, whatever the time of the day. Otherwise you would be very rude.
      In Germany (or, at my company) you can for sure say hello with kind words when you walk in but you surely do not want to disturb everybody in their work or tasks.

  17. Wow. Your question was totally reasonable. Her response was not.

  18. That’s awful that you were treated that way! I recently had a much better experience with an airline. We were flying to AL from TX. Due to terrible weather and other complications, we were re-routed first to Las Vegas and then to Chicago. When our flight was cancelled for the second time that day, it would have been very easy to be grumpy. Instead I thank the attendant for doing everything in his power to find a connecting flight. He was so shocked by the fact that I said a simple thank you that he allowed us to board with the families even though we did not have children.

  19. Preach it girl! Some people are awful.

  20. That’s terrible! She should have let you board earlier. They always let people with children board first, and you’re CARRYING a child in you, so why not?! She shouldn’t have treated you like that. I bet she’s rude to everyone, and that’s her personality.

    I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of kindness of strangers, so I believe it’s still around, but less in abundance. We just have to do our best to take care of ourselves and use our instincts to know when to share our kindness and not get hurt in the process.