PTA meetings are not peaceful. Politicians are not polite. And yikes, the Facebook comment section. If we try a little harder to meet all this rudeness with grace, writes Jennifer King Lindley, we just might save society. or at least keep our blood pressure down.

By Jennifer King Lindley
August 09, 2017

A lot of people these days—and no, they aren’t all your grandmother—are bemoaning the death of civility. We witness shoving in a crowded elevator, snarky comments online, or yelling in traffic, and it does seem like the world is going to h-e-double hockey sticks in a handbasket (how’s that for manners?). But whether or not the perception is true—after all, nitwits in your grandparents’ generation cut in line, too; it just wasn’t broadcast via Instagram Stories—we are feeling the strain. A January 2017 poll by the communications firm Weber Shandwick found that 69 percent of respondents said they thought the U.S. had a major civility problem. “We are in an age of rudeness,” says Lisa Mirza Grotts, an etiquette expert in San Francisco. “And it seems to be getting worse.” You can blame technology, of course. We sometimes focus more on our phones than on the faces and feelings of actual people. Then there are the Twitter wars and politicians shouting at one another on the news. You can also blame long work hours. “Sixty percent of employees say they act uncivilly because they are overworked and stressed and don’t have time to be nice,” says Christine Porath, PhD, professor of management at Georgetown University and author of Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace.

What you might not realize is that all this rudeness takes a toxic toll. A 2017 study in Journal of Organizational Behavior found that employees suffered from stomach problems, sleeplessness, and headaches days after being dissed on the job. Other research has shown that experiencing, or even witnessing, rudeness can hurt our creativity and our working memory. “Often rudeness is ambiguous, so we use up a lot of cognitive resources trying to figure it out,” says Trevor Foulk, PhD, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the University of Maryland in College Park. (Did my roommate leave those dirty dishes in the sink because she’s inconsiderate or because she had to rush off?) Says Porath, “We look to others as mirrors of our own value. So when people act rudely toward us, it can make us feel we’re not deserving of respect.”

What can we do about it, since smartphones, television, the Internet, and, well, human beings are here to stay? Be nice. Let things go as much as you can. And follow this expert advice on handling rudeness in your everyday life.

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