Assertiveness and Success

Positive personal impact is one of the keys to personal and professional success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.  If you want to create positive personal impact you need to do three things.  1) Develop and nurture your unique personal brand.  2) Be impeccable in your presentation of self – in person and on line.  3) Be polite.  Know and follow the basic rules of etiquette.

No matter how polite you are, you are likely to encounter rude people.  A truly polite person will not respond in kind.  Last week I did a post in which I mentioned P M Forni’s great little book The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude.  I highlighted his eight rules for a civil life.

In this post, I’d like to focus on what Mr. Forni calls “The Terrible Ten;” a list of what his research shows are the top ten rude behaviors.  Take a look…

1. Discriminating in an employment situation.
2. Driving in an erratic or aggressive way that endangers others.
3. Taking credit for someone else’s work.
4. Treating service people as inferiors.
5. Jokes and remarks that mock another’s race, gender, age, disability, sexual preference or religion.
6. Aggressive behavior or bullying.
7. Littering (including trash, spit and pet waste).
8. Misusing handicapped privileges.
9. Smoking in designated non-smoking areas.
10. Using cell phones of texting during conversations or meetings

Which of these drive you crazy?  Which of these are you guilty of?

Sometimes I drive a little too fast, but in large part, I think I am not guilty of these terrible ten.  I work at being the opposite of many of them.  I never litter, and often pick up “clean” – paper, soda cans or cups -- pieces of litter than I find.  Pet waste is a pet peeve of mine, but I don’t carry plastic bags to pick up after pets whose owners don’t do so.

I go out of my way to treat everybody I meet with respect.  Service workers appreciate this.  I can tell from the surprise on their faces that not enough people do the same.  I fly a lot, and often get upgrades.  I’m often shocked by how curt and rude people are toward flight attendants.  Of course, Cathy my wife, was a flight attendant for over 30 years.  I’ve heard some pretty crazy stories.

Smoking in non smoking areas is another one that drives me crazy.  Bans on smoking are common these days.  20 years ago that wasn’t the case.  Elevators were one of the first places in which smoking was banned.  I remember getting on an elevator that was clearly marked “No Smoking in the Elevator” and encountering a guy who was lighting up a cigarette.  I said to him in a polite way, “You know you’re not supposed to smoke on this elevator.”

His answer was so bizarre that I remember it to this day.  “You think that just because you’re a big guy, you can push me around?”  I guess in his mind, the best defense was a good offense.  I just said, “No.  I’m not trying to push your around.  I just was telling you that the sign right there says ‘no smoking.’  I would appreciate it if you would put out your cigarette.”  He said, “you can’t bully me.”  By that time, we were at his floor and he got off the elevator, giving me a one finger salute.

I’m sure you have just as many stories about these “Terrible Ten” as I do, so I won’t bore you with any more of my stories. 

Mr. Forni suggests that the best way to deal with rude behavior is to act assertively, not aggressively.  When you are assertive, you stand up for yourself and your rights in a manner that doesn’t demean or diminish the other person.  That’s what I was trying to do by pointing out to the fellow that smoking wasn’t permitted on the elevator, and by telling him that I wasn’t trying to bully him with my size, but merely asking that he not smoke in a very confined space.

Often, being assertive works.  Sometimes it doesn’t -- as my elevator example shows.  However, even when being assertive doesn’t work, it is still better than being aggressive or abusive.  Don’t call names, don’t get physical with people to get your way.  Try your best to politely get them to change their rude behavior.  If you’re not successful, so be it.  Don’t sink to the other person’s level.  It never makes sense to combat rudeness with rudeness.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people create positive personal impact.  People who create positive personal impact are polite.  They respond to rude behavior in an assertive, not aggressive manner.  Stand up for yourself in ways that don’t bully or demean other people.  Be clear about what you would like, but do it in a civil polite way.  As my grandmother used to say, “You get more flies with honey than vinegar.”  A polite request is often the best way to get someone to stop his or her rude behavior.

That’s my take on how to deal with rude people, what’s yours?  Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.

Bud

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