My personal encounter with toxic rudeness
A while back I made the mistake of visiting a supermarket on a very busy day of the week. While casually browsing I happened upon a flowery character, a true representation of the Mean World Syndrome, who placed her shopping cart smack bang in the middle of the aisle. Attempting to pass by I uttered 2 words that caused my flowery character tremendous displeasure. I said………”excuse me”. Shock horror!
She turned to me in slow motion, sized me up, and sarcastically replied….”you are excused”. Followed by an eye roll so pronounced it was more like a head roll, and continued to meticulously inspect an avocado like it was a science experiment. Needless to say, her cart remained firmly in place, forcing me to move mine all the way around the fruit and veg section to get the to the other side.
“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”
At first, this encounter upset me. But then I wondered what would make someone so mean spirited that it aggravated her to move a cart one inch for someone to pass by. My anger then slowly changed to sympathy, as I know that the way people treat others is a direct reflection of what they are experiencing on the inside.
I bumped into her one more time and gave her a big warm smile, hoping it would soften her……it didn’t work.
What prompted the Mean World Syndrome
Let’s travel back to the 70s for a moment. A time where adults were addressed as “ma’am” or “sir”. Common courtesy and good manners prevailed and entitlement was unheard of.
Fast forward 40 years, where entitlement prevails and common courtesy is decimated. If not overwhelming rudeness and disrespect, then it’s excessive histrionics, adult tantrums, and oversensitivity that we now have to contend with.
On reflection, I can’t help but wonder what brought this about. Is it a result of helicopter parenting, cultural influence, the introduction of social media, or the fast pace of life of the 21st century causing more stress and discontent? Perhaps our values and beliefs are out of whack. The more we have, the more we want. Nothing and no one can bring us happiness, and when it happens, it’s fleeting or fake and we seek validation somewhere else (cue Instagram and Facebook).
The mob mentality ensures that rudeness perpetuates rudeness and whether you are the giver or receiver of rude behavior it can have a profound effect on your mental health and productivity. It is the lack of self-reflection and accountability for our own actions that allow the Mean World Syndrome to blossom.
The root cause of rude behavior
1. Bad judgment
The decisions we make in life can have a profound effect on our psyche and overall health and well-being.
One form of bad judgment is making decisions based on what is expected of you, instead of what’s in your best interest. Spontaneity is not always a good thing. We fail to carefully contemplate the future consequences of the decisions we make today. In the long run, those decisions catch up to us, breeding contempt and self-loathing.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who wish they could go back in time and make better decisions about circumstances that can no longer be changed, and it’s making them absolutely miserable.
Misery loves company, so they cope with their misery by making someone else as miserable as they are. And what do we have as a consequence? Toxic rudeness of course.
2. Being content with discontent
Picture this. You spend most of your time at work. Your boss is overbearing, your work environment is toxic, your colleagues are lazy, increasing your workload. You’re overworked, underpaid, and burnt out.
So you go home to a relationship that no longer stimulates you. There seems to be no escape or safe place to vent. Bitterness and self-loathing is unavoidable as you crack open beer after beer in a hopeless attempt to ease your dissatisfaction, expanding the size of your belly instead of your mind.
You go to bed, knowing that you won’t like waking up in the morning, as you have to face the same tedious, yet maddening day.
It’s astonishing how many people face at least one of these problems but refuse to examine the root of the problem and make the changes that will bring contentment.
Is it easier to be content with your discontent? Would people rather put on a face to show others they’re (fake) happy than put in the short term effort that will bring long term happiness? I guess so, or the Mean World Syndrome wouldn’t have a leg to stand on!
3. Low self-esteem
Thanks to social media and fewer genuine social interactions, insecurity, and low self-esteem is rife in today’s society. But what happens when people feel less than someone else, is that they have to prove your worth somehow.
So they flex their verbal muscles in a vain attempt to feel above someone else by being belligerent and boorish. The opposite effect is likely to be present in a worthy crowd. The lack of self-awareness is so dominant that they cannot see the crowd cringing, shaking their heads. They think they have made the point that they possess enough value to treat people with disrespect.
The sad truth is that most of us can spot low self-esteem a mile away, and are turned off by that kind of behavior.
4. Emotional UNintelligence
Wikipedia’s definition of emotional intelligence is “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically”
Lack of emotional intelligence can be the result of our upbringing. This leads to an adulthood full of fear, irrational pride, self-doubt, low self-confidence and zero courage. People with low emotional intelligence are “always right”, easily offended, angered by the most trivial events and show no empathy towards others.
This type of mentality always finds an opportunity to breed toxic rudeness, as there is always something that will rub them the wrong way.
5. Lack of freedom
Freedom is a luxury that few in the 21st century enjoy. What people don’t realize is that something so scarce is easily achieved, yet most people choose to remain mentally and financially shackled. They prefer to stay in a restless comfort zone than to immerse themselves in the effort it takes to achieve long term freedom.
And why? Because it requires courage to step outside the norm and work at a vision that has not yet come to fruition. It also takes self-reflection to know what you truly want in life. Admitting to the truth for some is like taking a blade to their psyche. It’s far less painful to bob in the grey mundane waters of self-doubt and uncertainty than to achieve something new that will bring lasting fulfillment.
Contempt and envy start to breed for those who have the audacity to chase their freedom, achieve new goals, improve their skills, and value continuous improvement.
This contempt and envy is what invokes the Mean World Syndrome’s toxic rudeness.
A little self-reflection goes a long way
The great Michael Jackson’s song Man In The Mirror sums it up best.
“I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change”
Instead of evaluating others’ behavior, take a good look at your own first. Examine the root of your behavior. Be courageous enough to admit the truth, and face the challenges head-on that will bring about the changes you need to combat the Mean World Syndrome and bring you long term, genuine happiness.
For once, don’t join them………. beat them!