Most of us were raised with good morals and values including be nice to others, share, don’t kick sand in another’s face, and if you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything. I find that these are good childhood teachings but our current society seems to be more and more devoid of such practices.
In my travels to conferences and public events throughout the world, I have the opportunity to observe human behavior at its best (at charity events where people are truly devoted to making a difference) and its worst (crowded airports on a snow day) and everything in between. While it seems that the overall societal level of frustration in the U.S. has increased since the recession set foot, the majority of people I meet are kind, considerate human beings. Every once in a while I encounter someone who is just plain “nasty” and it always gives me pause because they are so different from most people I meet. Last night was one of those times.
Every year on my friend’s birthday eve, we go out to to a local neighborhood pub to celebrate her birthday and St. Patrick’s Day, and we are always amazed at the variety of “characters” and how the economy doesn’t seem to have affected St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. We were lucky to get seats at the bar and were enjoying the atmosphere and high energy of bar patrons who came up close behind us to jostle for position and attention of the bartenders to order their concoctions. It was an interesting vantage point for observing patrons who seemed to be invisible despite their courtesy and patience – some simply couldn’t attract the attention of the servers (they weren’t scantily clad) and became increasingly frustrated as others who arrived later were served first. We ended up having “informal jobs” of flagging down passing bartenders when people in our vicinity started to lament the length they waited to be served. Patrons were appreciative when we assisted them and were relieved to finally get a drink.
Things were going swimmingly until a “mean” (I’ll explain) bartender yelled “don’t point” and then “don’t call my attention” – loudly scolding three separate people at the bar for trying to aid stranded patrons whose pleadings for service fell on deaf ears. I can understand frustration (the pub WAS crowded) and the stress of working (but there were another 6 bartenders on shift behind the bar) — but the behavior was so sudden and disrespectful that it attracted the attention of everyone within earshot including other servers – who stopped to pause – before continuing on. Everyone around us was stunned! Had any of the other bartenders reacted or if they had with anyone else at the bar, it could be considered to be a single mean moment… but as we sat there in shock and silence we realized this same server had done this exact behavior last St. Patrick’s day!
I remember reading a Dec 2009 column from RealSimple.com called “10 Truths I wish I’d known sooner” by Amy Bloom. #7 on her list came to mind “Mean doesn’t Go Away”. In the article, Amy states:
“7 Mean doesn’t go away. Some people get better looking with age; some don’t. Some people soften; some toughen up. Mean streaks tend not to disappear. A person who demeans and belittles you and speaks of you with contempt to others is probably going to be that way for years. The first time it happens, take note. The second time, take your coat and go.”
That’s exactly what we did – took our coats and went – since it is a pub we want to revisit again, we will register complaints with the management. Over the past several weeks I’ve come to realize that a basic freedom is the Freedom to Associate Freely, which we readily embrace – but we don’t often practice the freedom to also DISassociate freely. Whether it is in our homes, our neighborhoods, at work, or in public – as adults and Americans we have the choice and the freedom to DISassociate! With over 7 billion people in the world, we need to know that there are many good people with whom we can CHOOSE to associate.
I spent far too many years defending and justifying mean behavior because I simply didn’t recognize it and didn’t exercise my right to DISassociate, but I’m learning. Disassociation from mean people is an important part of our own health and welfare – yet somehow we fail to practice this freedom. What do YOU think?
Wishing you a productive and happy week and weekend!
Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.
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