Shifting attitudes

Posted by watchmen
August 18, 2017
Posted in OPINION

Had a random realization recently about people’s attitude, during an otherwise average day. Was parking along B.S. Aquino Drive and, coincidentally, while disembarking the vehicle, a group of young students walked by – made apparent by their school uniforms. Had never encountered any of them in past and all three of them smiled and greeted “Good Afternoon.” It came as a shock as most people around here are fairly standoffish when it comes to strangers, but it was a very welcome surprise – greeted them back the same.
This is not to say coldness among local residents is exclusive to this city, in many places around the world – like New York City – people are not generally warm and friendly to the random person next to them. However, as mentioned in previous columns, in other places, many seem to instinctively make the small gestures, such as holding the door for each other, saying “please” and “thank you,” among other basic pleasantries.
Later that day, after walking down the street and sitting down to lunch at a small diner, encountered a completely different set of individuals. They seemed to range between late teenagers and their early thirties – assuming it was a high school or college class having lunch with their instructors. This group was completely different from the polite girls met a couple hours before, they walked into the restaurant speaking in obnoxiously loud voices, some were even screaming; they were bumping tables left and right, sitting down and standing up, seemingly unaware of where they were going (despite it being a fairly small restaurant); and when they finally settled on a table, the chorus of chair legs screeching across the floor was deafening.
The concept of lifting the chair slightly did not enter their minds – perhaps because an awareness of those around them was completely absent. It has been discussed before in prior columns the seemingly widespread malady of narcissism; from motorists who drive recklessly as if they are the only people on the road to individuals who think they are exempt from waiting in line to people who could not care less about how their behaviors affects the people around them – it has yet to be determined why this particular culture of pretentiousness and snobbery is so commonplace.
Even when the group was asked to lift the chairs due to the racket they were creating, it was literally met with either confusion or anger; that “how dare you” type of anger.
Where and when does the shift take place? From polite kids who greet their elders to teenagers and young adults who seem to take pleasure in inconveniencing others for the sake of portraying some type of assumed superiority.
A 2015 article for Psychology Today by Christopher Bergland, an endurance athlete who runs a coaching service in New York City, he said, many times rude behavior is based on imitation.
He cited studies that looked at rude behavior in the workplace, which found “the most common catalyst for co-workers acting rudely is imitating the behavior of their colleagues.”
“The study found that people who behave rudely oftentimes experience a type of ‘lowest common denominator’ social support, which makes them less afraid of negative reactions or repercussions for their rude behavior by managers and colleagues.” Bergland wrote. “This creates a climate in which rudeness can spiral out of control and contaminate the entire workplace.”
It explains the bemusement on the students’ and (presumably) teachers’ faces when challenged on their behavior, clearly, they are at the point where they have no idea what is rude and what is polite.
A 2015 piece by Cindi May in Scientific American backs up the imitation theory, citing studies that showed how rudeness is contagious.
“With negative behaviors, the witness becomes the perpetrator, just as the person who touches a doorknob recently handled by a flu sufferer can themselves get sick and infect others,” she surmised.
Somewhere between grade school and high school, there is a drop-off in how people conduct themselves. There is obviously a source teaching manners, as exhibited by the way many school kids act; but as they get older, there is something eradicating those previous lessons of basic civil demeanor and replacing it with an ideology solely focused on the self.
Additionally, lessons on civility are things that should be nurtured throughout one’s day – at home, work, school, wherever. However, if one is only surrounding themselves with others only concerned with their personal welfare – along with parents who tolerate such behavior – then it’s a lost cause./WDJ

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