Have you ever dealt with really impolite behavior?
Recently, I had a student complain to me that his group leader was very irresponsible during their team project. He sent her his work early, but she did not send her work back on time. Later, she submitted the rough draft without even telling him, and she did not share the teacher’s feedback with him. He was really angry and told me:
“I did everything right. I don’t care if you make mistakes in your work, but at least communicate with me! I don’t care if you are smart. I’d rather work with a not-so-smart classmate who respects me.”
He was fuming, and I listened to him vent for quite a while. Afterward he finished venting, I told him:
“I can see you are very upset that she treated you disrespectfully. I know you worked very hard to be a good team member, and I know you always try to be a good person. That is great. You said you did everything right, but let me ask you: If you did everything right, why would you be angry? If you truly did everything right, you should be at peace with yourself.”
He said, “I am angry because I did everything right and my group leader acted wrongly.”
I told him, “OK, but are you responsible for your feelings or other people?”
He was quite for a few seconds, and then said, “I guess I am.”
I replied, “Exactly. So there’s your first mistake: blaming others for your feelings. Secondly, do you think your group leader is purposely trying to make you angry? She is a good student. You guys were good friends before. Do you really think she is intentionally ignoring you and trying to make you angry? I remember she got sick recently, and we are near the end of the semester, so I imagine she must’ve been really busy recently. Maybe that’s why she didn’t reply you.”
He said, “OK, I guess she is not trying to make me angry.”
I said, “So there’s your second mistake: assuming negative intentions without confirming first. Let’s take this a step further. Have YOU ever made someone upset by accident? Maybe you did not mean to upset them, but they interpreted your actions wrong and got angry at you?”
He said, “Yes.”
I said, “So how would you want to be treated in that situation? Don’t you wish they would come and ask you your intentions rather than just blaming you and being angry at you without even giving you the chance to explain?”
He said, “Yes. But sir, I don’t want to create any unhappiness or conflict between us, especially since this is the end of our course.”
I said, “Well, as long as you forgive her in your mind, then it’s fine. It’s not like she feels upset towards you. Do you still feel really upset towards her?”
He said, “No you’re right, my anger is my problem. I want to leave a happy memory in this course, so I will forgive her and improve myself.”
Although I was able to help this student resolve his anger, the irony is, I have the same problems as him. I get upset when others behave unreasonably as well, so when I heard him complain, I thought of all the advice I keep repeating to myself whenever I feel upset.
For example, when I see rude drivers changing lanes to speed past me and then change back to my lane, I think, “Wow that is so rude. I am driving at the speed limit, and you are speeding shamelessly!”
Then I remind myself, “OK, chill out. Instead of assuming they are purposely trying to be rude, why don’t you just assume that they are rushing to an emergency? After all, you don’t know what they are thinking, so why do you have to automatically assume a negative intention? You always complain that others assume negative intentions of you without checking, and here you are doing the same thing to others! That’s pretty hypocritical, no?”
Sometimes, I have misunderstandings and even arguments with others. I get upset and think, “Why does this person have to be so illogical and unreasonable?”
Then I remind myself, “OK chill out… Even if they are illogical, who is responsible for your feelings? Not them…You are! You don’t HAVE to get upset here. If you truly care about them and want to resolve this conflict, then YOU need to calm down and be kind first. Don’t make your happiness dependent on other people’s behavior. Furthermore, no one tries to be wrong or stupid on purpose! Just like you think you are right, they also think they are right. So instead of thinking they are so illogical, why don’t you try to really understand their perspective first?”
Other times, I see people not keeping their word, or shamelessly breaking rules, and I think, “Seriously? Don’t you have any sense of shame?”
Then I remind myself, “Their actions are their actions. Why do you have to keep thinking about them and criticizing them in your head? Why are you putting their garbage in your mind? You could be using your mind for much better things! Besides, they did not learn about the importance of ethics and morality, so you shouldn’t blame them. You write about ethics and morality all the time, so obviously you will follow the rules. You are the abnormal one, not them. Blaming them does not help anyone. The best way to help this world is to just keep setting a good example with your own behavior.”
We will all encounter rude and unreasonable behavior from others in life. What matters is how we respond to them. Getting annoyed or angry hurts ourselves the most. Instead, we should
- Assume positive intentions or ask what their intention was.
- Remember no one is purposely trying to be stupid or wrong. If I think they are illogical, then I do not understand their perspective yet.
- Recognize that rude behavior is common now because there is a lack of good role models in society. If I want a better world, then I should set a good example regardless of how others behave.
Not only will we be happier this way, but we will also contribute to a better world!