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GETTING NASTY

BRYCE ON LIFE

– Do nice guys always finish last? Well, ah…

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Something I find interesting in our society is our predisposition for being rude and offensive. About a year ago I saw a high school graduation ceremony at a football field where the parents were outright obnoxious. Instead of quietly sitting in the stands and offering polite applause at appropriate moments, it was a ruckus affair where parents pushed and shoved, shouted and whistled at their kids, some even stepped over the lines and on to the field reserved for the students so they could take a picture of their offspring, something they could have done afterwards. When they were asked by the police to step off the field and go back to their seats in the stands, they ignored them and even told them to mind their own business. It was quite ugly. So much so, this year the high school sent forms to the parents stipulating the decorum they must follow. Further, the forms had to be signed by the parents and if they violated the agreement, the student’s diploma would not be presented that day. I found this a bit mind boggling. Usually, it is the students that are asked to behave properly, not the parents, but I guess the times have changed.

It wasn’t always like this of course. People practiced common courtesy, such as holding doors open for others, letting people speak, displaying good manners, dressing for the occasion, etc. Acting obnoxiously was generally frowned upon, but now it seems to be commonplace. In fact, it appears to be the expected form of conduct. Let me give you an example.

Recently, I noticed a problem with the invoice from my Internet Service Provider (ISP). I discovered we were getting double-billed on a couple of items and charged for a particular service we no longer used. When it was first brought to my attention I sent a note to my ISP representative politely asking them to correct the problem. I did this twice as I didn’t receive a reply the first time. After a few weeks, I decided to check my account on-line and lo and behold I discovered nothing had changed. Frankly, I blew a fuse. Instead of exchanging additional pleasantries, I penned a threatening e-mail to the ISP warning them to either fix the problem or we would take our business elsewhere (the actual e-mail was obviously worded more strongly). Basically, I had to lose my cool and get nasty with them. Remarkably, the problem was suddenly rectified within a few scant minutes of threatening the ISP by e-mail. The speed by which this occurred caused me to wonder why. Surely I had articulated the problem clearly in my earlier correspondence to them, a rather professional note, at least so I thought, but they didn’t act on it. Instead, they acted on an obnoxious threat.

It seems odd the only way you get action anymore is by becoming nasty with people as opposed to being courteous. Maybe the problem is that people have all learned “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” that the only way to get action is to push your way on to the field, regardless of who gets in your way. Otherwise, you are ignored and taken for granted.

I am certainly not suggesting we should all become more crass than we already are, but it is important to recognize there will be instances where it will be necessary to become nasty, particularly when you are being ignored. There certainly is still room for civility in society, but I fear there is a general inclination to think and practice “me first” as opposed to patiently cooperating.

Somehow I am reminded of Mark Twain’s observations on how man socializes with others:

“Man is a reasoning animal, such as they claim, though I believe that’s open to dispute. I’ve been studying this ‘reasoning animal’ for years now and I find the results to be humiliating. Well for example I experimented with a cat and a dog. Taught them to be friends and put them in a cage. I introduced a rabbit and in an hour they were friends. Then I added a fox, a goose, a squirrel, some doves, a kangaroo, and finally a monkey. They lived together in peace. Well next I captured an Irish Catholic and put him in a cage and just as soon as he seemed tame I added a Presbyterian, then a Turk from Constantinople, a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas, a Buddhist from China, and finally a Salvation Army colonel. Why when I went back there wasn’t a single specimen alive.”

Maybe society hasn’t actually changed too much since Twain’s time.

As an epilogue, this year’s High School graduation ceremonies at the football field were washed out at the last minute by rain. Instead of waiting for the rain to subside, school administrators decided it would be safer to postpone the ceremony until the following day where it would be held indoors. This didn’t sit well with the parents who blasted the principal with irate e-mails and telephone calls. Instead of a little patience and cooperation for the purpose of safety, the parents became upset simply because they were “inconvenienced.” Maybe we should have taken these parents and put them in a cage as Twain suggests. I wonder if any would survive.

First published: June 25, 2012

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Tim is a writer and management consultant located in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.


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