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A Rude Awakening

October 23, 2009, 10:00 PM by Shawn Neisteadt

A Rude Awakening
Have you been cut off while driving lately, or maybe someone interrupted you mid-sentence?  If you have, chances are, you're not alone.

A recent survey found that 75 percent of Americans believe we're all becoming a little more rude, and a little less civilized.

The tennis community was stunned at the actions that unfolded during this semi-final match at this year's U.S. Open. Usually level-headed Serena Williams unleashed a profanity filled tantrum on a line judge. It's just one public example of rude behavior.

"Oh yeah, Serena Williams can go and threaten someone's life. I mean, obviously you're not going to do that yourself, but I think that makes gateways and bridges into making things socially acceptable for everyone else, not just celebrities," Maisie Eickhoff said.

Maisie Eickhoff wouldn't expect to see such a display from her classmates at Augustana College, but she does agree with the majority of Americans polled that say people seem to be getting a little more rude - and perhaps, we really are.

"People have been saying this for a while. I don't think this is the first poll that has found people are concerned about increasing rudeness," Professor Anne Zell said.

Anne Zell is a social psychology professor. She says it may seem like those around you are more rude, because they're probably thinking about themselves.

“People are more willing to say, 'I'm special, I'm great, I deserve more than others people,' and this self-centered attitude could easily contribute to increasing rudeness," Zell said.

And of those surveyed, women 40-years-of-age and younger were most likely to say that Americans are becoming a little bit more rude. And when it comes to rude actions, cell phone usage is near the top of the list.

"I don't like when the cell phone is out, especially when its just two people and they're having a conversation with someone else and not you," Taylor Thompson said.

"That would be the biggest grievance in college, is like cell phones. Whether they're silent in class or if you're texting during class, I would say that's the biggest thing," Eickhoff said.

And much of the same can be said for technology larger than hand-held. Internet communication can easily trigger less-than-kind conversations.

“When we feel anonymous, we're more likely to do things we wouldn't otherwise, because we're not accountable for our actions. The Internet can really dis-individuate people. It can really make them feel like they're anonymous, they're not accountable," Zell said.

"I think innovations in technology have developed us into a more selfish society," Eickhoff said.

But not all is lost. By taking a few steps in the way you communicate, you might start to reverse the perception of being rude.

"You can be assertive without being aggressive. You can find courteous ways to express your viewpoints. Sometimes we think if I don't get to say what I feel right now, then I'm being stifled, but there are other options," Zell said.

And maybe, once in a while, simply keep the cell phone put away.

The debate on if we're actually becoming more rude is a heated one, because it's natural for people to remember the past in a more favorable light, and experts say that means we may have forgotten some of the ugly behavior of the past.

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