That is just so rude!

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day, and she commented how people simply wouldn’t return phone calls and we both said in unison: ‘that is just so rude.’ Frankly, that one small example of simply not calling people back has become more of a standard practice, than an exception. This got me thinking … there have been so many books written of late about emotional intelligence (EQ), building your brand, learning and leveraging your strengths, learning your personality type and how this effects your work  – the list goes; yet, so many of us have simply lost the basics.

So, why are we becoming such a rude culture?

A few of my executive colleagues have actually said to me:

  • I don’t have time to call them back; they will have to just get over it
  • I shouldn’t have to say thank you to them for doing their job; that is their job
  • I am in a hurry; I simply don’t have time to listen to all that history and detail. Just give me what I want and stop telling me all this  #JK%H that I don’t need or want to hear.
  • The way I look at it, we are here to make a profit for our shareholders, at the end of the day, it is not about how nice we are to each other it is about delivering the bottom line.

Well, this is where I draw the line. Who said all these things were mutually exclusive?

There is a clear distinction between being rude and being in a hurry and having different priorities. There is also a clear distinction between telling the truth and telling the truth rudely. Since when do we have to be ‘rude’ to get our jobs done? And why are we allowing this to become the ‘new way’ of conducting business? (Is this the role model we want to give the younger generation? Think about how we feel when they answer us in a less than respectful tone? Pretty hot!)

At this point, many of you are fast forwarding through this blog, muttering ‘of course we don’t have to be rude or even really want to be rude, yet sometimes it just happens.’ Or, my favorite response when I told someone I was going to write a blog about this: “Come on, Kristin, you need to grow a tougher skin, people are just running so fast and are so busy this is not about you, they are just thinking about their own lives and responsibilities. If it doesn’t fit into their schedule of priorities you can’t take this personally.”

So to set this record straight, I get it. But, that is precisely the point! When did we allow this to become the new norm? Yes, there have always been rude people; and yes, there probably always will be. However, in our electronic world of increasing impersonalization, we have made it so much easier.

We can, however, change this gravitational pull, (if that is what we want, and we should, given our global work environment). I also believe, on a grander scale,  that being conscious of not being rude can absolutely lay the foundation for a better culture, stronger work relationships, a more cohesive team, better results, and frankly, a happier lifestyle.

Sure, this is basic. Who says the greatest gems to facilitate change and foster collaboration have to be complex theories or methodologies based on complicated assessments?

So, this week, I am offering 5 basic things to remember, which I believe will help us all improve the ‘rudeness factor’ in our lives – professionally and personally – and I believe improve many other aspects in our lives, as well.

  • Stop interrupting!!

Curb the impulse to cut folks off. Often we do this because we believe what we have to say is more important. Or we believe we already know what they are going to say. Or we don’t want to (or care to) hear what they are going to say. Or we just think they are ‘slow or dumb’ and they are wasting your time. Or we are actually trying to support what the person is saying – so we zealously jump in mid-stream. Whatever the reason – this is just rude.

Personally, I am guilty of interrupting on occasion – and yet, I also hate to be interrupted. So – a little practice I am trying, is when I feel the urge to interrupt, I take a sip of whatever I have in my hand (coffee, water, wine, etc.) and just focus on the moment. It is amazing how this has helped me to stop cutting people off in mid-sentence. I am hoping this will become a natural habit for me or I will become waterlogged or drunk!

  • Just return the phone call!

No need to belabor this one, we just need to call people back – promptly. It is simply not that hard. Even if we don’t want what they are selling, we don’t support the cause they are pushing, or we just really don’t want to talk to them; why can’t we just call back and be honest, or worst case leave a polite, responsive voice mail message for them?

Recently, I have personally been the benefactor of someone treating me with that courtesy. As many of you know, I am co-chairing a very large charity event this year. As you can imagine, raising funds for non-profits in this economic climate is very difficult. For every ten calls made, I may get one returned. How refreshing it is to have someone call back – even if they are not supporting the event! When the CEO of a large privately held company actually personally called me back, leaving a message of support, it completely shocked me. Though he was unable to give large sums to our cause (darn), it was simply surprising that he even called back – personally. It is a sad state to admit that it was a surprise – nevertheless, I wanted to call this example out! He and his company will have my support for many reasons, this being one.

In business, I have unfortunately also been the recipient of quite rude behavior of late. In one case, several emails and voice mails went unanswered for about 2 weeks. What is that about?! Needless to say, my attitude toward the person when I finally reached him was compromised, to say the least. Ironically, I was actually going to introduce this business associate into an opportunity!!  When we finally connected, frankly, I had changed my mind.

You see – we never know, do we?

  • Listen, really listen.

This actually goes right along with the stop interrupting suggestion. You know, most people simply want to be heard. We want to share, to lament, to debate, to explore and through all this, to actually have someone listen to what we have to say. I wish I had a nickel for all the conversations I have watched when I see the person either looking at their watch, multi-tasking, or juggling papers. There have also been times when I can almost see the wheels turning in their heads of what they are going to say next !

There is an art to listening, of truly being in the moment with the other person, looking them in the eye, acknowledging what they are saying and asking questions to further explore their positions. There are very few of us who really have mastered the art of listening, of hearing the unspoken word. When we have had that experience we don’t forget it easily. It feels so great to believe someone actually is interested in what we are saying. What I have also observed, is when we are the recipient of a kind listener, it is contagious. We want to listen to them.  It becomes magnetic. Imagine the power of this with our clients, our prospective customers, our partners, our employees, our husbands, our wives, and our children.

  • For heavens sake…..slow down.

We are all running at such a pace. Clients demand it; management demands it (even the children’s activities do). Thus, the story of the gazelle and the lion:

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. The moral: It doesn’t matter if you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running!”

My question is why do we think that common courtesies are dispensable when we are in a hurry? The little things throughout the day which we ‘think’ take so much time really don’t. Go ahead … let a car pass in front of you on the freeway, talk to the neighbor as you are walking the dog, visit with the person in hallway who just needs to connect or invite someone with a heavier load in front of you in the grocery line.

The reality is the same whether at work or off hours. When we slow down, even just a little, we will observe things we don’t when we are so rushed. We will pick up nuances, lessons, and even new relationships which will undoubtedly benefit us; we just need to slow down long enough to notice them.

  • Please, thank you, and I’m sorry.

These few words are something most – if not all – of us were taught when we were growing up. These should be the easy ones. Yet, I cannot believe how many interactions I have on email, voice mail and in person where I never hear a please or a thank you. Never. For some reason, this often gets lost in the pressure cooker of life and business. Hard work, dedication, and sacrifice in the workplace (or in other aspects of life, too) are simply taken for granted. I, in fact, had an executive once tell me to not say please and thank you as it softens our message and we may appear weak.

Well, I am here to tell you that could not be further from the truth. The strongest and most successful leaders with whom I have worked were the ones that took the time to thank, to acknowledge hard work, to say please and yes … to  say “I’m sorry” when a mistake had been made or an injustice had occurred. These few words can turn the most difficult of conversations into the most palatable, most meaningful, and the most inspiring conversations a leader can have.

  • Yes, it is personal – and that does not mean it is all about you.

This is like the line from the movie with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan when the  large corporate book chain forces the closing of the little shop around the corner, and he says this is “just business, not personal.” Meg Ryan’s character pushed back and said, “I just don’t get that! It may not be personal to you; that is because it is not happening to you.”

Precisely. There is a saying, “it is never a big deal until it happens to you.” How true this is! Life is personal. Our interactions are personal. And yes, business is personal – because it consists of interactions between persons.

We can and do build great teams, lead incredible transformations and achieve remarkable goals. What I am also certain of is this: we can do none of these things without others. Period. Our personal interactions and relationships are the key to success – personally and professionally.

So – I wrote a blog on being polite, on not being rude, on being kind to each other, on treating others with the respect we each want. Maybe some will think this blog is soft and squishy and others may think it is simple and basic.

But, it’s my hope that ALL of us will recognize these basics are the building blocks – of respect, of relationships, of partnerships.  And, as with all fruitful treasures, that is where the juice is.