We live in difficult times. Times when it is easy to lose your temper by letting hostility and rudeness take over. Times in which insults have become the daily bread in all spheres, everywhere, transforming contempt and rudeness into a perennial presence that many have accepted - for better or for worse - in their lives. Times in which we have forgotten the wise words of the philosopher Eric Hoffer: "rudeness is a weak imitation of strength".
Researchers at the University of Florida believe that, at least in large part, this phenomenon is due to the fact that hostility and rudeness are contagious, like the flu. In a series of experiments they found that people who had been insulted or attended an act of rudeness sooner or later ended up verbally attacking other people.
Uncivilized and unkind behavior often generates a snowball effect. The more we expose ourselves to rudeness and hostility, the more likely we are to perceive them in others, and more importantly, the more likely we are to be rude and hostile towards those around us. Uncivilized behavior sows a seed within us that grows - slowly but surely - until it comes to light.
If they have been rude to you, you are more likely to be rude to others
In one of the experiments, the participants had to complete a short 15-minute survey. When they finished, one of the researchers pretended to be a late participant and asked to be included in the study. In one group, the researcher politely said that the experiment had begun and offered to reschedule it in the future. In another group, the experimenter abruptly scolded the participant and told him to leave.
Later all the participants had to complete a task that included different words. Some were positive, such as "helpful" and others had a hostile component, such as "rude". Interestingly, people who saw the experimenter behave in a hostile and rude manner quickly spotted the hostile and rude words, meaning that these were active in their mind.
To test whether this sensitivity affected social behavior, the researchers organized another study. They found that when people watched a video of an employee being rude to a customer when handling an incident, they wrote more hostile emails.
This means that when we suffer hostile behavior or attend it, the concept of rudeness is activated in our mind, even if we are not fully aware of it. As a result, we will be more likely to rate small environmental cues as hostile, rude, or rude. This would cause us to fall into a self-fulfilling prophecy, ending up abruptly responding ourselves to others.
Rudeness literally exhausts us
Researchers also discovered a link between rudeness and low levels of self-control. When someone is hostile and rude to us, they force us to expend a huge amount of mental energy bound to find out what's going on. What caused the rudeness? What exactly does this mean?
If someone physically attacks us, for example, we can all notice that this is offensive behavior. There are no doubts. But if someone tells us, "get out of my way!", We will wonder if they were aggressive, rude or just in a hurry. Normally in social contexts rudeness is ambiguous, so it is open to interpretation.
These thoughts consume cognitive resources, so they end up reducing our ability to control impulses. Therefore, if we have already witnessed a rudeness, we will be more likely to be rude and hostile towards others, simply because we do not control our impulses. In a way, we make others pay for their rudeness or rudeness, sometimes without being fully aware of it.
The risks of incivility
Hostility, insults, rudeness and rudeness not only make the target of these behaviors feel bad, but their consequences go far beyond, exerting enormous influence on all spheres of our life.
Incivility and rudeness can reduce confidence, cause feelings of anger, fear, and sadness, and even cause depression. A study conducted at Singapore Management University revealed that incivility at work not only generates enormous stress, but can also cause psychological and health problems.
Another series of studies conducted at the Israeli Institute of Technology showed that when medical staff were subjected to rude and impractical comments, they were used to making more errors in diagnosing and treating patients.
The impact of rudeness even goes beyond the boundaries of the environment in which the incident occurred. Baylor University researchers found that suffering uncivilized behavior at work has implications in personal life reduces relationship satisfaction, which is likely due to her bringing that hostility home.
Awareness: the antidote to bad education
In the light of these studies we can see how rudeness can be contagious, even if we have been exposed to only one episode. And that anyone, absolutely anyone, is sensitive to this contagion, which will have negative consequences on our interpersonal relationships and worsen our well-being.
To stop the avalanche of hostility, we must take a step back and not react by following the first impulses. We must be aware that we are "carriers" of the hostility received, and therefore recover our ability to self-regulate and be able to respond calmly to the situation, preferably with courtesy and kindness, to break a negative chain and initiate a positive one that generates well-being in the others.
Replacing rudeness and impatience with full awareness, courtesy and kindness will not change the world, but it will change the environment around us and our relationships. And sometimes, that's all we need.