What is the impact of our casual rudeness

This week as most weeks have been recently was very busy for me with lots of facilitation of learning.

Now the thing is when you facilitate others learning, if it goes well you end up learning as much (sometimes more) as the participants. This was definitely the case this week. One session in particular has had quite a profound impact on me and how I view my behaviour.

We have been exploring how inclusion and civility can impact on team performance, and how using a coaching approach can support a more inclusive, and civil work space.

Every aspect of inclusion and civility is uncomortable when we examine our own biases and behaviours. We are especially guilty of holding a single story for people that are different to us. We often fail to acknowledge the richness of their stories and experience and what value those differences can bring to our workplace. We naturally create groups or tribes of people that share similar experiences therefore we hold multiple stories of each other, as a result of our shared lived history. When someone with a different lived history arrives in our space, we often have a single story which is based on what we have heard through our stories and what we have made up. As a consequence we can either under estimate or over estimate their impact on the team. This made me think of all the single stories I hold about people, about people from other countries, people with disabilities, people from different professions, people from other cities, people who drive range rovers, people who support Leeds United. The list is endless. We are liable to hold single stories about people that sit outside of what ever group we happen to be in at that time. Using a coaching approach allows those single stories to be multiple stories. By being curious, and listening with fascination to understand the rich lives and stories they have will not only enhance the team but will enhance yourself. What if by listening to the single story you are missing out on untapped knowledge that could change how your team works.

The biggest impact of the week came when we were discussing civility and the impact mild rudeness can have on people’s ability to function. If you are the recipient of mild rudeness (unkind flippant comments, being dismissed, on the receiving end of mickey taking, being ignored) your ability to function cognitively reduces by 61%. 61%!!!! That is just terrifying. Your chances of making a mistake have gone through the roof. The chances of you now being rude to someone else has also gone up. Witnesses don’t get away with it either, your bandwidth is reduced by 20% and you are 50% more likely to refuse to help someone.

So lets just think about this.From my experience I am generally mildly rude to 2 groups of people. Those I have a lot of investment in (my family, hoping that levels of forgiveness are high), and those I have no desire to win over, those on the outside of my group, those I hold a single story about. This made me feel dreadful, that I could be causing people I love to be less. Let this sink in . When you are mildly rude to someone, you diminish them, you make them less. Now think of those people you hold a single story about that you dismiss, or ignore. You are not hostile to them but you might make fun of them or be quite short with them when they make a suggestion. Every time you do that you reduce there ability to function efficiently. You could be the reason they make a mistake through your casual rudeness. That casual rudeness could result in someone being physically harmed.

I am going to start to practice, pausing and recognising my emotions before I spill over into rudeness, when I am with my family. I am going to pay attention to those people I hold a single story about, and get closer to them to understand and appreciate their multiple stories, therefore creating a greater investment in them.

Author: Matt Smith Personal and Professional Coach

Performance and Life Coach

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