Don’t Be Someone Else’s Depressing Anecdote

I remember once, a long time ago, when I used to work in shops as a kid. I was told that it was okay for a customer to be rude to me, because they had probably had a bad time in another part of the shop I worked in, so by the time they got to the till, they would be frustrated and annoyed and I should just suck it up.

I disagreed vehemently.

It’s like having a rubbish time with a bank or insurer and taking it out on the person on the front desk or the person on the phone. How is that okay? It isn’t their personal problem, they didn’t make the rules or give you the hard time you’re reacting to. I hear this tale all the time from friends and family: it is okay for this person to be horrible to me, because they have been passed about.

I know how it feels to be on hold forever, or be in a never moving queue or sent the wrong information. I can certainly understand that.

Yet – no – it is never acceptable to be rude to someone you do not know and have never met (or those you do know, for that matter). It is not acceptable to vent your frustration at the individual before you, unless you’ve stomped into the CEO’s boardroom.

The person there in the uniform or on the phone in the call centre is there to earn money to feed themselves and possibly a family too. They are not there because they think it’s funny, they are there because they have to be – because they like things like heating and electricity and food. Giving them grief is unacceptable. Be a grown up and speak calmly and rationally, think things through. If you’ve had a rubbish time, tell them, explain it all – but do not be a horrible.

At the end of the day, you will end up being the story that person goes home with that night to tell their family about when they ask “how was work today?” and you’re going to be the anecdote of the “utterly horrid person I had to speak to today”. Do not be that person. Do not make someone else upset or waste grey matter on you.

I hate hearing about family and friends being abused by people who think that it is okay to shout really loudly and act arrogantly and even intimidatingly by people who have no concept that this sort of behaviour makes them simply look a fool.

Why be rude to people you do not know? I don’t understand it.

I talk to people I do not know with kindness, courtesy and respect (and the ones I do know, of course!). There could be some terrible personal crisis this other human being is going through and they have had to drag their backside to work out of necessity. Then, just to make it worse, they must add you to their misery. How do you know that this person isn’t going through hell and you, feeling like you have the right to do so, have behaved appallingly towards them?

I just despair sometimes when people come along in life with nothing but built-in anger that they constantly spew everywhere. Make a decision not to be mean; there is no reason not to.

Over the years of my working life, which began when I was 16, I have experienced some awful things and witnessed some terrible behaviour towards me and indeed, my colleagues, because someone is ‘having a bad day’. How do you know that I’m not, but despite my emotions and frustration, I am trying to be a helpful as I can? What gives you the right to make my day bad or worse because yours is?

We also all make mistakes in our personal and professional lives. We all forget things and lose track of things. We are human beings, not computers and therefore are entitled to cock up now and again. That is just how it is. I accept that others take their eye off the ball and others should, I hope, accept that I will too. I will forget to call you back or write something for you or meet with you or lend you that thing you wanted or return the thing you gave me… I expect you to be the same.

Does that warrant rudeness or uncouth displays?

There really, truly, honestly are things in this life worth yelling, shouting and jumping up and down about. Minor, petty and insignificant trifles, although terribly annoying, are not part of that. There are things to get cross and angry over in this world, but be careful where you fight your battles. Plan them wisely. Win the war. Save yourself.

I appreciate that this may not be what you’re truly mad about and that there may be underlying things there already. Yet, it still does not give you the right to be anything but courteous.

Don’t be a strangers depressing anecdote. Be the thing that made a stranger smile.

Lord knows, there is enough in this bleak world to make people very, very sad every day. Be someone who makes people very, very happy instead.

Cat x



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