Civility Lost: Maybe you’ve noticed it too. People seem ruder these days. Common courtesy and basic manners appear to be fading from everyday life. What are the causes of Rudeness? There are a few factors contributing to the decline of civility.
You live in an increasingly distracted and self-centered world. People are often more focused on their smartphones than the people right in front of them. This constant distraction and inward focus breed inconsideration for others. Impatience is also a factor. You want what you want, and you want it now. This urgency and demand for instant gratification mean less tolerance for delays or inconveniences. Rudeness becomes a way to express frustration when the world isn’t perfectly tailored to your needs.
Of course, the anonymity of technology emboldens some people to be rude without consequence. It’s easy to be insulting or abrasive when you don’t have to face the other person or deal with their reaction. Overall, a culture where self-interest is valued over the community and instant gratification is prized over patience is one where civility struggles to survive. But recognizing these roots of rudeness is the first step to fostering more courtesy and kindness. A little more patience and consideration can go a long way.
Table of Contents
1. The Anonymity Effect: How Online Anonymity Fuels Rudeness
The rise of online communication has introduced an unfortunate side effect: the anonymity effect. When people can hide behind a screen name or avatar, it emboldens them to behave in ways they never would in person.
Online anonymity reduces accountability and dehumanizes interactions. It’s easy to forget that there are real people with real feelings on the receiving end of your messages. This “disinhibition effect” means people say and do things anonymously online that they would not normally say or do when their identity is known.
Anonymity also reduces empathy. It’s more difficult to understand the impact of your words when you can’t see the other person’s body language and facial expressions. Rudeness spreads like a virus online as people mimic the toxic behaviors they see in others. Over time, extreme behaviors become normalized.
What’s the solution? We must work to humanize online interactions and cultivate more empathy. Share how hurtful messages impact you personally. Call out rudeness when you see it. Promote and spread kind messages. Use your real identity when possible to increase accountability. Make an effort to understand others and give people the benefit of the doubt.
Together, we can curb online rudeness and make the internet a more civil place. But it starts with each of us doing our part to spread more kindness and empathy every single day.
2. Stress and Burnout: Why We Lash Out When We’re Stressed
Stress impacts our behavior and interactions in many ways. When you’re feeling stressed and burned out, it’s easy to lash out at others in frustration.
Constant stress causes your body to produce excess cortisol, the “stress hormone.” High cortisol levels impair your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for self-control and rational thinking. This makes it difficult to regulate your emotions and reactions. Minor annoyances seem like major offenses, and you lose your ability to respond constructively.
- Excess stress also leads to irritability, impatience, and a short temper. You become reactive instead of proactive. Things that wouldn’t normally bother you suddenly do.
- Feeling overwhelmed and sleep-deprived leaves you with little patience or energy to invest in courtesy. It’s easier to be rude or dismissive than to make an effort to be polite.
- Unmanaged stress causes anxiety, worry, and a sense of losing control. We lash out at others as a way to regain some control or temporarily alleviate feelings of anxiety. Of course, this never actually solves the underlying issues.
The solution is to manage your stress through self-care. Make sure to schedule time for exercise, sleep, relaxation, and social connection. Learn coping strategies like mindfulness or deep breathing to help you stay calm under pressure. And remember, every small act of kindness counts, so do your best to extend courtesy even when you’re feeling stressed. Your mental and social well-being will thank you for it.
3. Entitlement Culture: How Self-Centeredness Breeds Incivility
At the core of entitlement and incivility is a lack of empathy. When we fail to consider what others might think or feel, hurtful behavior comes more easily. Developing empathy requires effort and a willingness to understand different perspectives. Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced, self-focused world, empathy seems to be in short supply. Taking the time to see through another’s eyes can help foster more considerate behavior and curb rudeness.
One of the major contributors to the rise in rudeness is an increasing focus on the self. When people become overly self-centered, they lose awareness of others and how their words or actions might affect those around them. Self-centered individuals believe that their needs and priorities should come before anyone else’s. This sense of entitlement breeds incivility.
“Me First” Mentality
The “me first” mentality is characterized by excessive concern for oneself and a lack of concern for others. Those with an entitled mindset often rudely interrupt others, ignore people’s personal space, and fail to say “please,” “thank you,” or “excuse me.” They are impatient and become easily frustrated when others don’t meet their needs immediately. This disregard for basic social etiquette contributes to the general decline of politeness.
Overall, excessive concern for oneself at the expense of others lies at the heart of rude and uncivil conduct. By cultivating more empathy, patience, and awareness of others, we can work to overcome entitlement and breed greater kindness and civility. Though reversing such a culturally ingrained mindset will take time, each small act of consideration helps move us closer to a more compassionate society.
4. Lack of Empathy: Why We Struggle to See Other Perspectives
A lack of empathy, or the ability to understand other people’s perspectives and share their emotions, is a major contributor to the rise in rude behavior. When we fail to see beyond ourselves and our own experiences, it becomes easy to dismiss or disrespect others.
In today’s individualistic culture, self-absorption is common. We are highly focused on personal goals, needs, and desires. While pursuing our interests isn’t inherently bad, taken to an extreme, it can blind us to the realities of others and foster a lack of concern for how our words or actions might affect them. Making an effort to consider other points of view can help overcome self-absorption and build empathy.
It’s easy to lack empathy for those with opposing viewpoints when we isolate ourselves in like-minded “echo chambers.” We follow, friend, and consume media from those who share our values and opinions. Exposure to diverse perspectives, even those we disagree with, helps promote understanding and compassion. Seeking out balanced and fact-based news sources and engaging in civil discourse with people who differ from us are ways to gain insight into other ways of thinking.
It’s harder to be rude or disrespectful to someone when we see their humanity. But when we make assumptions, generalize groups of people, or use language that makes others seem less human, it becomes easier to treat them callously. Avoid using insulting or derogatory language when referring to any group. Look for common ground and the things that make us all human.
While a lack of empathy is an ongoing struggle, being aware of the forces that contribute to it is the first step. Making a conscious effort to gain exposure, broaden your perspective, and see the humanity in others can help overcome this empathy deficit and build a more compassionate society. But it starts with each of us. How will you demonstrate empathy today?
5. Parenting Styles: How We Raise Rude Children
The way how children receive parental affection has a huge impact on children’s behaviors.
Lack of Discipline
Parenting styles that are overly permissive or fail to establish boundaries and consequences for rude behavior are contributing to the rise in incivility. Children need to learn from an early age that there are rules for politeness and courtesy. Without discipline and correction, kids will push the limits to get what they want without regard for others.
Failure to Model Good Behavior
Parents and caregivers are role models, and children often mimic their behavior. If adults frequently display rude, disrespectful, or abrasive behavior themselves, kids will likely follow suit. Parents should model the kind of polite, courteous behavior they want to see in their children.
Lack of Empathy
Developing empathy is key to learning civility. Parents need to teach children to consider how their words and actions might affect others. Discuss why certain behaviors are hurtful or disrespectful. Encourage kids to walk in another person’s shoes. Helping children become more empathetic and compassionate will make them think twice before acting rudely.
Praising the Wrong Things
While praise and positive reinforcement are important, parents should be cautious about what they are praising their kids for. Praising children for things like yelling, demanding, or arguing to get their way will only reinforce those behaviors. Instead, praise kids when they handle situations with courtesy, respect, and patience. Provide incentives and rewards for good behavior and following the rules of politeness.
Lack of Communication
Strong communication is essential for teaching kids proper behavior and etiquette. Explain your expectations for courtesy and respect. Discuss why these social skills are so important. Listen to your kids and understand why they may act out, then help them find better ways of expressing themselves. Foster open conversations about the challenges they face and provide guidance on handling situations constructively. Communication, along with leading by example, is key to raising polite, well-adjusted children.
6. Coarsening of Culture: How Media and Entertainment Normalize Rudeness
A steady diet of rude, uncivil, and toxic behavior in media and entertainment has desensitized society and normalized incivility. When rudeness is commonplace, it ceases to shock and becomes acceptable.
Reality TV and Social Media
Reality shows that thrive on conflict and drama between outrageous characters promote the idea that rude behavior is entertaining and even admirable. On social media, the anonymity of the internet dis-inhibits people and amplifies their worst impulses. Trolling, flaming, and online harassment are pervasive, modeling cruelty and normalizing the abuse of others.
Spread of Disinformation
The spread of “alternative facts” and disinformation on social media has led to more polarization and less common ground. When people can’t agree on basic truths, civil discourse is nearly impossible. Conspiracy theories that spread lies and paranoia about groups of people have real-world consequences, enabling discrimination and even violence.
Celebration of Toxic Masculinity
Some media, especially in genres aimed at male audiences, glorify an outdated culture of toxic masculinity that values physical dominance, misogyny, and aggression over empathy or compassion. When these attitudes are celebrated and emulated, vulnerable groups can feel dehumanized and unsafe.
Desensitization to Violence
Repeated exposure to violence in media, TV, movies, music, and video games desensitizes people to aggression and harm against others. While the research on the direct effects of violent media is mixed, a culture saturated in virtual violence shapes attitudes and normalizes cruelty.
Bringing civility back will require promoting inclusive values, critical thinking, media literacy, and civic responsibility at individual and societal levels. More empathy, compassion, and kindness—in the media, in public discourse, and in daily life—can help create a culture where rudeness and cruelty are no longer acceptable or entertaining.
7. Tribalism: Why We’re Rude to Those Outside Our “Tribe”
Tribalism refers to the human tendency to form groups and favor those within them. Unfortunately, this innate behavior also contributes to rudeness towards those we perceive as outsiders.
We naturally feel most comfortable with those like us, whether in terms of race, religion, political beliefs, or other attributes. We view these in-group members favorably and with trust. In contrast, we tend to view those outside our tribe with suspicion and even hostility. This in-group bias leads us to be curt, disrespectful, and downright rude toward outsiders.
Once we have formed tribes, we seek out information that confirms what we already believe about our group and others. We ignore or discount anything that contradicts our preexisting views. This confirmation bias allows us to justify our rude behavior towards those we see as outsiders. We convince ourselves that they deserve it.
Us vs. Them Mentality
UsU vs. them This way of thinking arises from tribalism. We categorize people as either like us (us) or different from us (them). This binary mindset makes it easy to dehumanize and disrespect “them”. Compromise and common ground become unlikely. Rudeness towards outsider groups feels acceptable, even righteous.
While tribalism is human nature, we can make efforts to overcome its downsides:
- Recognize your own biases and how they influence your views of others. Challenge yourself with different perspectives.
- See outsider groups as fellow humans rather than as stereotypes. Look for common ground and reasons to connect.
- Broaden your tribe. Make an effort to understand and include a more diverse range of people. Interact respectfully, even with those who are very different from you.
- Speak up when you witness rude behavior toward outside groups. Condemn the action, not the person, and suggest more constructive ways of interacting.
With conscious work, we can build a more civil and inclusive society that values all people, inside or outside our tribes. But overcoming tribalism starts with each of us.
8. Lack of Consequences: Why We Don’t Face Repercussions for Rude Behavior
Lack of Social Norms
As societal norms around politeness and courtesy have eroded over time, rude behavior has become more common and accepted. Without clear expectations for polite conduct, individuals may not even realize their actions are rude or disrespectful. For example, the rise of technology has made it more acceptable to constantly check mobile devices, even when spending time with friends and family. However, this can be seen as rude behavior if you actively ignore those around you.
Anonymity of Technology
The anonymity of the Internet and social media also enables rude behavior without consequences. When people can hide behind a screen name or avatar, they feel less inhibited from being uncivil or hurtful. According to a 2014 study, people are more likely to be rude on social media and in comment sections because they feel anonymous and detached from the impact of their words. Without seeing the direct effect on others, people don’t feel the same obligation to be polite.
Lack of Repercussions
Finally, rude behavior is on the rise simply because people don’t face meaningful repercussions or punishment for it. If someone cuts in line at the store or yells at a retail worker, there are typically no real consequences for that behavior. At most, the person may get a few disapproving looks from others, but they are unlikely to face any real repercussions for their rudeness. Without facing consequences for uncivil actions, there is little motivation for people to change their behavior or be more courteous and considerate.
In summary, the decline of social norms around politeness, the anonymity of technology, and the lack of meaningful repercussions have all contributed to the rise of rude behavior in today’s society. Re-establishing expectations for courtesy and enforcing consequences when those expectations are not met may be the only way to reverse this troubling trend.
9. Upbringing and Environment: How Our Environment Influences Us
The environment we grow up in has an enormous influence on our behavior and development. Our early experiences shape how we interact with others and the world around us. Unfortunately, some environments foster rude and uncivil behavior from an early age.
Several factors in our upbringing and environment contribute to the rise in rudeness:
- Lack of parental supervision or involvement. Children who grow up without proper guidance, discipline, and positive role models may never learn social skills like courtesy, respect, and empathy.
- Exposure to rude media. Constant consumption of TV shows, movies, music, and social media that promote hostile, vulgar, and uncivil behavior normalizes that conduct, especially in impressionable youth.
- Lack of consequences. If children are not taught that there are consequences for rude behavior, they will continue that behavior into adulthood. They never learn proper social etiquette or how their words and actions affect others.
- Stress and hardship Difficult life circumstances like poverty, abuse, or family dysfunction can negatively impact development and make people more prone to rude behavior. However, this is never an excuse for uncivil conduct. Many people overcome immense hardship and still choose to treat others with kindness and respect.
- Isolation and a lack of community Strong communities, relationships, and social connections foster good manners and civil discourse. Their absence does the opposite. People who feel disconnected from others are less likely to care about the societal benefits of politeness and courteousness.
In the end, individuals are responsible for their behavior. But by recognizing how our upbringing and environment shape us—for better or worse—we can work to overcome unhealthy influences, make different choices, and build a more civil society. The root causes of rudeness are complex, but the solutions start with each of us.
10. Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem: Negative Impacts of Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem
Insecure individuals often have trouble accepting themselves, leading to behaviors that negatively impact civility.
Those with low self-esteem doubt their worth and abilities. To compensate, they may:
- Criticize others to make themselves feel better in comparison.
- Constantly seek approval and validation from others.
- Be overly sensitive to perceived slights or rejections.
- They lashed out in anger or aggression when their insecurities were triggered.
The insecurely self-absorbed are so focused on themselves and their own needs that they lack awareness or concern for others. They may:
- Monopolize conversations by talking only about themselves.
- Fail to listen to or acknowledge what others say.
- Make unreasonable demands on people’s time and resources.
- Lack empathy for what others are experiencing or feeling.
Those with low self-esteem often feel like they are under constant scrutiny and judgment. They may perceive even innocent remarks or behaviors as personal attacks, leading to overreactions like:
- Angry outbursts over small annoyances or slights
- Hurt feelings from imagined criticism or rejection.
- Difficulty accepting constructive feedback without feeling diminished or devalued.
- Holding onto grudges over perceived offenses for a long time.
Insecurity and low self-esteem have significant impacts on civility through these kinds of negative behaviors and thought patterns. Building confidence from the inside out by embracing self-acceptance and focusing on your inherent worth can help remedy these issues, allowing you to interact with others in a kinder, less reactive way. Recognizing the humanity in others and showing them compassion also fosters more positive connections all around.
11. Poor Communication Skills: Lack of Interpersonal Skills Will Bring You Rudeness
In today’s fast-paced world, many people lack strong interpersonal and communication skills. Without developing these “soft skills,” individuals can come across as rude or abrasive. Some key reasons for poor communication include:
- Limited emotional intelligence. Those with a low emotional IQ have trouble empathizing with others or managing their own emotions. This makes constructive communication challenging.
- Egocentrism. Only seeing things from your own perspective and being unable to understand other points of view leads to self-centered behavior and close-mindedness. You must open your mind to different views.
- Impatience. In a world of instant gratification, patience is a virtue that is often lacking. Taking time to listen and understand others, even when you disagree, is key to productive communication and building good relationships.
- Distraction and lack of presence Paying full attention to those speaking to you, making eye contact, and putting away your phone or other devices demonstrates your focus and interest in the conversation. Giving people your distraction-free presence is a sign of respect.
- Unwillingness to accept feedback. No one enjoys criticism, but interpreting feedback as a personal attack rather than an opportunity to improve leads to defensiveness. Staying open to constructive feedback cultivates growth.
With some effort and practice of active listening, empathy, patience, and humility, anyone can strengthen their communication skills. Choose to engage in meaningful conversations, accept that you may be wrong at times, and commit to personal growth. Your civility and relationships will be better for it. Strong interpersonal skills are invaluable in reducing rudeness and creating a kinder society.
- Why Some People Are Mean, Rude and Disrespectful – Youtube Video
- How Rudeness Stops People from Working Together by Christine Porath published in Harvard Business Review
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