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Who Is Ultimately Responsible For Rude Behaviour?

02/28/2017 10:20 EST

Calling out rudeness, a lack of etiquette or a complete absence of compassion or empathy in public should never have to happen -- but it MUST.

The recent examples that made the headlines -- of a woman allegedly sitting on the feet of a passenger whose feet dangled over an empty seat on public transit -- is a case in point.

He was rude and inconsiderate to put his feet up on that seat in public. She likely took it a little too far in teaching him a lesson by sitting on his feet.

The key here though is that kind of disrespect and rudeness needs to be flagged in some way, otherwise, how is the perpetrator of the rudeness going to know and ever going to learn.

feet on subway seat

(Photo: Henry Stancu/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Seems to me, a lack of etiquette has been an overriding theme these days in general -- with three stories serving as the most recent examples to grab media attention. The other one involved a school bus driver who, in trying to teach loud elementary school kids a lesson, ended up driving them back to their school before setting back out on the bus route -- arriving more than an hour late at the scheduled stops, to the worry and dismay of parents. And then we had the cellphone ban during class, imposed by a school on its Grade 7 and 8 students, which went into effect last Monday. Again, the root cause? Poor etiquette and a lack of respect, in my opinion.

No doubt, there are plenty of daily examples on the subways, streets, sidewalks, on the phone, etc., in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), where these incident took place and elsewhere, pointing to the increasing absence of basic manners.

Is that not being taught at home any more? Is it because we are just an increasingly side-tracked society? Does technology take the blame for impolite behaviour?

Most importantly and frighteningly, is it becoming accepted as the social norm? I hope to goodness not.

Manners and respect are connected, in my opinion.

I'm not even talking about holding doors open anymore and allowing women, pregnant women and the elderly to go ahead of you. That was the way it used to be and much less so now. These SHOULD always happen, but don't.

My issue is around displaying basic manners. There should never be a reason to do so -- it should be automatic. Manners and respect are connected, in my opinion. You cannot have one without the other.

When that doesn't happen and disrespect is on display, people need to be told -- again, that's just me. I'm not looking to pick a fight with everyone I see, but as long as it is not brought to their attention, the behaviour will continue.

Of course, there are ways to convey this message, manage your frustration, make your point and move on, without it becoming front-page news.

woman

The tactics used to make that point are critical to success. Also important to consider is the situation and the perpetrator. It's almost impossible to flag rudeness to an irrational person.

A few years back, I interviewed a lady, the owner of a company which teaches civility and manners. initially, I found the concept to be quite curious. "Really, is there a need for something so obvious to be formalized into a program," I thought. Turned out she was onto something. Then, a few years later, another interview with another expert about etiquette -- spanning a wide range of themes including how to set a table and which cutlery to use in what order -- in addition to other not-so-basic lessons, as it turns out. Apparently, these business continue to thrive because there is a need.

For the parents who continue to teach these important life lessons about respect and politeness -- kudos. You are hopefully saving the rest of us the frustration of having to deal with it in a public setting. And yes, we all have moments when it is hard to be patient and respectful -- but it is necessary to live in a civil society.

For those parents who don't prioritize this type of teaching -- ask yourself -- how would you feel if your kid was the one who put their feet up on an empty seat in the subway -- denying its use to someone else. Would you tolerate that behaviour in your own home? Neither should the rest of us.

The students affected in both stories and the male youth involved in the subway incident won't realize it now, but they should be thankful their potential and real rudeness was flagged.

The increasingly uncivil look and feel of our society should make us ALL responsible.

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