Don’t Be Rude

 In Communication, Managing Your Team, Managing Yourself

Recently, I overheard some college graduates talking about their supervisors and work environments. Yes, I was eavesdropping!

I was fascinated to hear them share their descriptions of their bosses — frustrating, overbearing and demeaning. “She thinks she knows everything.” And, “He never wants to hear someone else’s opinion.

Then came my favorite: “She’s just plain rude!

The group couldn’t wait to be the boss someday, so they would not have to put up with these kinds of leaders.

A few days later, I was with many high-level leaders at a charity event. Incredibly, they spoke of the same kinds of condescending or rude behavior from business partners and associates, company colleagues and fellow community committee members.

They mentioned people who ran large departments in large companies or owned their own businesses, and even some nationally known CEOs!

College graduates and seasoned leaders — they had all felt slighted and inferior.

Rude people and bad behavior

The young graduates at the restaurant would have been surprised — and maybe a bit disillusioned — to realize that rude people and bad behavior will exist throughout their careers, regardless of leader level.

I would have liked to share this advice for the day when they become the boss: Titles may give you rank, but they don’t make you important. When people exert unnecessary power and privileges using societal or workplace title, it’s like “mean girls” all grown up. Bullies may seem to get their way, but they aren’t going to get respect.

What about you?

Let’s take a look at three Power Challenges you can use to avoid being condescending or rude,  practicing positive leadership instead.

As you become a better leader, you’ll become more productive, model positive behaviors for others, and gain new respect and regard from your team.

(Pssst… They Aren’t Really Thinking About You)

I want to acknowledge that while a bit of self-consciousness isn’t bad — it helps us act in socially appropriate ways — it can cause anxiety for some people.

We can get lost in our fear of disapproval and our worry about what others are thinking or saying about us.

My spouse’s favorite quote is: We would worry less about what others thought about us if we knew how seldom they actually thought about us. This is so true.

Power Challenge 1: Don’t Be a Snob

Have you ever felt inferior? Looked down upon by others? It’s not a good feeling. Since we know that feeling of discomfort, we need to make sure — as leaders — that we don’t give off that vibe of “I’m better than you.”

In the workforce, titles may denote authority within a company, but they don’t give you permission to act better than those around you. Don’t come across as a snob. Snobs tend to be selfish; generally, they are not well-respected.

My “Anti-Snob Beatitudes” are four principles that I try to practice daily. The antithesis of snobbery, they can help you go a long way in developing the characteristics of a strong, respected leader. You’ll be modeling the type of behavior you expect from those around you.

1. Be Nice.

It doesn’t take a lot to say “thank you,” hold a door, or even say hello. You’d be surprised how much a simple hello or acknowledgement can mean to a person. A little sincere kindness goes a long way.

Be universal in your kindness! Being nice for show — or to get something — does not count as being nice.

2. Be Respectful.

Show that you value other people’s perspectives and traditions even when they are not the same as yours. You can do this through your acceptance of them as individuals.

You don’t have to agree with everything others say or do. For example, you might strenuously disagree with someone’s political beliefs, but you can still extend them the courtesy of listening.

Being respectful also means being kind to those who aren’t always treated very nicely or are often ignored. For example, think of the woman in your mailroom or the man who comes through every night to clean the offices. They are just as deserving of your respect as the next person.

You can tell a lot about someone’s character by how they treat others — especially those less fortunate.

3. Be Humble.

It’s just rude to boast about how great a person you are, to go on and on about your achievements, travels or the great car you drive. Boasting makes the people around you uncomfortable and feel not very good about themselves. Meanwhile, you are coming across as pretentious and arrogant.

If it is attention you want, remember that other people are more likely to gravitate to you when you are modest and own up to your own insecurities.

4. Be You.

I once overheard two young girls talking about who they wanted to be in the new school year: the funny girl, the smart girl or the cool girl. I really felt badly to hear their conversation.

We have conditioned ourselves to think that who we are isn’t good enough, that we have to work on being someone else so that people will like us.

I wanted to tap the girls on the shoulder and say, “Why not just be you?” I didn’t do it, and I kind of regret it.

Don’t try to be someone you aren’t. You will come off as a fake, and people won’t trust you. (And, I’ll bet you are a pretty good you!)

Power Quote:

Don’t be someone else — be you!

Power Challenge 2: Be Interested, Not Interesting

Societally, we are fairly self-centered. We are always looking for ways to stand out and have people notice us. Many of us have not figured out that the best way to do that is to notice other people — to show them we are interested in them and what they have to say.

For example, take some dating advice a friend of mine was giving at a party. Someone had asked her, “How do I get a person to like me, to have a drink with me? What do I say?”

My friend’s answer: “Simple. Say very little about yourself. Make the conversation about the person you are talking to. Ask questions. Be interested, not interesting.” I thought, isn’t this advice so appropriate for our work lives as well?

Try these tips:

  • In meetings and social settings, don’t command the conversation. Let people finish what they have to say without interrupting. And do listen to what they are saying.
  • If the conversation lags, ask questions. Not the yes/no variety, but open-ended questions that will draw out a reluctant speaker. People will appreciate your interest in what they are talking about. They will be more apt to leave with a positive impression of you than if you had merely talked about yourself.
  • Give people compliments — but be sincere! If not, you will come across as insincere, self-serving and ingratiating (or in true layman’s terms: a suck-up).
  • Make eye contact and watch your body language. If you are constantly checking your phone or looking around the room at others, the person in front of you will quickly understand that you don’t find much value in them or their conversation.

The most effective, most respected leaders are those who are truly interested in others and pay attention to what others are saying. They are actively listening and not worrying about what they are going to say next. They are present!

Power Quote:

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming more interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” Dale Carnegie’s assertion from the 1930’s remains relevant today.

Power Challenge 3: Are You Rude?

Is it possible that you are rude — but don’t know it? Take the mini self-assessment below.

How often are each of these items like you? Be honest with yourself!

  1. You breeze into the office and go straight to your desk, telling yourself you are a busy person and you don’t have time for pleasantries.

Rarely  /  Sometimes  /  Often  /  Almost Always

  1. You go to a meeting and jump right in with what you want to say. Or you forget to take the time to hear what others have to say or contribute. But either way, you figure the meeting is about getting what you want because you are in charge.

Rarely  /  Sometimes  /  Often  /  Almost Always

  1. You are running late and you tell people you are “just five minutes away,” even though you’re aware that it’s closer to 15 or 20 minutes. You’re trying to placate the other party.

Rarely  /  Sometimes  /  Often  /  Almost Always

  1. Your responses to emails are short, without pleasantries. You tell yourself that with the hundreds of emails you receive, you can’t be bothered with pleasantries — even though you’ve been told that without face-to-face cues, a personal message or simple thank you to an email can make a big difference in how your message comes across.

Rarely  /  Sometimes  /  Often  /  Almost Always

  1.  You have little hesitation to send a text during a meeting, while you are on the phone, or at a business dinner. You rationalize that it’s okay because everyone does it — even though you are aware that it makes those around you feel like they aren’t worth your time and attention.

Rarely  /  Sometimes  /  Often  /  Almost Always

Score yourself for each answer: Rarely = 0 points, Sometimes = 1 point, Often = 2 points, Almost Always = 3 points.

  • Score of 0-2: You are doing pretty well.
  • Score of 3-6: You are still okay, but you have a bit of work to do.
  • Score over 6: Yikes! Your rudeness score is tipping the scales — and you need to do something about it!

Start slowly. Try tucking the phone away at lunch and opening a door for someone. In your next meeting, give someone else a chance to say something and listen to them — really listen. And, the next time you respond to an email, add a small pleasantry.

You’ll be amazed at how a few simple gestures can begin to earn you the respect you thought you had. Remember: Don’t be rude. It’s not cool!

Power Quote:

‘ Please’ and ‘ Thank You’ are simple words that never get old.

Need a speaker for a business event or training?

Carla inspires leaders and team members — and provides real-world tips to become the best version of themselves that they can be. Contact her today.

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