Etiquette 101: Sometimes it is ok to be a little “rude.”

Etiquette 101: Sometimes it is ok to be a little “rude”.

“Why don’t people trust their instincts? They sense something is wrong; someone is walking too close behind them… It’s hard to believe that fear of offending me is stronger than the fear of pain, but you know what? It is. And they always come willingly, and they sit there, they know it’s all over, just like you do. But somehow they still think that they have a chance, maybe if I say the right thing, maybe if I’m polite, if I cry, if I beg… It might amuse you to know that, while you were upstairs, having mousse with me and Liv, who by the way finds me very conventional, I had Aryna down in that cage. Who is Aryna you might ask. Just another girl, just another immigrant…”

-Martin Vanger from the movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

For those who have not seen this movie, it is about a journalist Mikael and his assistant Lisabeth, a computer hacker hired to solve a 40-year-old murder mystery for a wealthy family. Along the way, they discover that one of the family members; Martin Vanger is a serial killer. The dialogue I quoted is from a conversation Martin has with Mikael just before he gets ready to kill him after his cover has been blown. What Martin said gave me pause; he made it clear that he did not force any of his victims to come with him to their eventual demise. In the name of being “polite” and the fear of causing offence, they overrode their gut instincts and they paid for it with their lives.

With all of the posts I write, on manners and etiquette I never want to convey the message that proper etiquette and good manners is the answer in every situation, in some situations, being “rude” is the proper response to a dangerous or serious circumstance. Given the people or situation, it might the only response.

I recall attending a church where one little boy was a holy terror to the other children in the congregation. The adults saw what was going on and ignored it. One of the boys being bullied by this kid was a 7 year old boy who I will call Harry. Harry’s mother got tired of seeing her son as one of the targets of this bully and enlisted the help of one of her friends who was also a member of this church and who happened to be a marital arts expert to teach her son some self defense techniques. After he taught Harry how to defend himself he instructed him to tell the bully “stop it” twice and if he did not stop, he was then to take measures to defend himself.

The following week he did just that. The response of the adults was astounding. They attacked Harry verbally by stating he was not being very nice or polite. They shamed him with lacking God’s “love” and how could he be so rude, etc. Harry did not beat up the boy (though he easily could have), he simply used one technique to stop him from hitting and pushing him.  The martial arts expert who witnessed the entire episode sharply rebuked the adults and pointed out how they ignored the bully pushing the other kids around for weeks and did nothing about it. He also told them that he taught Harry to defend himself and if they had a problem with that to talk to him about it. The adults became shamefully quiet and said nothing more and that bully never bothered Harry again though he kept harassing the other kids and the adults went back to ignoring it.

I mention this story because many people misunderstand being polite and kind is to believe that allowing abuse, harm or mistreatment to themselves or others by not taking measures to put a stop to it is showing good manners and  class (give me a break!!).  Nothing could be further from the truth. Let me make this point very clear, I am not supporting rudeness in the name of tit for tat, you don’t have to be loud and aggressive to get your point across, but sometimes that is the only language some people understand when a polite “no” or “stop it” does not suffice.

How many children have been molested or abused by family members or friends because they were told they were to always respect adults and were not “allowed” to protect themselves when it was appropriate? The adults failed to teach these children there is a proper time to break the rules? How many women won’t break up with a guy who is showing signs of abusive behavior because they don’t want to “hurt his feelings” (and vice versa) or they won’t end that toxic friendship because they have been friends for a long time and they continue to allow that relationship to drain them all in the name of not wanting to be “rude”?

The Martin Vanger character proudly said he had to do very little to entrap his victims. Their fear of offending him because it would be bad manners worked to his advantage. I guarantee you there are people out there who rely on the loyalty of some people to being polite, silent, or nice when they are being abusive or disrespectful and God forbid should the other person rise up to correct the situation, then they are the one accused of being “rude” for not putting up with poor or dangerous behavior from the person, there is a word for that, it is called “gas lighting”. For these situations I do not support a silent, polite or kind response and if your life is in danger, I definitely do not support it.

So with all the posts I post about good manners, kindness and politeness, it is always in the context of a respectful, safe, environment where everyone is doing their best to treat themselves and others well that these suggestions have their rightful place. It is not reserved for those whose main agenda is some form of harm to you or others. To them a touch of “rude” (saying no, firmly rebuking, separating yourself from them, self defense when physical etc.) just might be the only remedy to get the point across.

When necessary don’t be afraid to use it.