As I see it, rude behavior comes in a rainbow of colors.  Each color signifies a degree and intent.

BLUE: Unintentional

Basically, these types of folk offenders just don’t know any better.  While they may not have grown up in a barn, they were either not taught otherwise or missed the lesson.  These types of offenses are easily forgiven.  Example:  Your mother-in-law audibly slurps her Earl Grey tea and uses her dinner fork to scratch her back at the dinner table.  These offenses are not meant to hurt and are not directed to you.

ORANGE: Disguised or Unconscious

Orange faux pas’ could be divided into two camps but the degrees are the same.  Generally, these are illustrated by people who are oblivious to their own rudeness.  It might take the form of a back-handed compliment:  “I like your new car but why did you choose THAT color?”  An unconscious example is the single guy who sits in the only six-person booth at Subway leaving the mom with five kids to scatter her brood amongst three, two-person tables.

RED: Aggressive

Red’s are the aggressive types of behaviors that are personally directed to you.  You receive the middle finger flash from a 16-year old in a souped up Camaro who you’ve obviously offended by driving like Miss Daisy.  I can usually tolerate these types of stings.  It’s the second version of RED that makes me nuts.  Example:  You learn that a fellow work colleague has taken credit for something you’ve done.  They simply don’t like you.  This action could also be termed ” disguised aggression” because they always pretend to like you publicly which, depending on your action, can make YOU look like the jackass.  These are the Honey-Dripping-From-Their-Tongue-While-Concealing-A-Dagger-Behind-Their-Back types.

BLACK: Offensive

These souls elicit “Oh, GROSS!” and “I can’t believe she did that!” types of responses.  These are the peeps your Mama warned you about and who likely grew up in a barn.  Some examples would be the girl who bares her breasts at the Packer game so she can appear on the Jumbo-Tron screen.  The guy who blows his nose on the sidewalk without using a hankie or the uncle whose rich vocabulary is not censored in front of your three-year old.

While the degree or intent vary, all color types constitute rudeness.  They hurt or offend another person. While we may not be able to control the actions of others, we CAN control our responses.  Usually.  Occasionally, the dirty deed happens so fast we can’t respond quick enough or with the perfect comeback.  I always land on the perfect response however; it’s usually a day late.  Sometimes, we are forced to make a quick or calculated counter.  These comebacks are what divide the civilized from the uncivil.  I’ve been in both comeback camps and can tell you that the civilized camp is much more comfortable.  It also means that you may have to dig deep in your attempt to take the high road.  WARNING The high road is not the easy road.

Take a deep, cleansing breath and size up the situation.  Much of the time, it’s better to let the offense slide than it is to take action.  If the offense was not directed to you, sometimes a dramatic eye-rolling will suffice.

No tit for tats.  Don’t return the wrong behavior with the same, no matter how tempting it may be.  You will look like the jackass who just offended you.

Look in the mirror (metaphorically speaking) and walk in their shoes (also metaphorically speaking).  Examine yourself for anything that you may have done to spur the bad act.  Is there something going on in the other persons life that could account for the peccadillo?

Interject some humor.  Smiling and retorting with humor is a benign way to deal with The Blue’s, some Orange’s and a few Red’s.

What if you’ve been Blackened or victimized by a full-out Red attack?  Sometimes, remaining silent with a Mona Lisa smile just won’t cut it.  No matter the offense, a Faux Pas veteran will remain poised and in control.  After taking a deep breath and surmising the situation, your retort will depend on the environment. Whether at the workplace or out and about in public, the perfect response will be composed.  It will not be sarcastic.  It will demonstrate to the world that you have class but what they’ve done is not OK.  You will not lose control  escalating the exchange and potentially jeopardizing your safety.  Trust me, this is much harder to accomplish than letting “it fly”.

Time for a story.  Once again, do what I say and not what I did.

15 years ago on a hot and muggy 4th of July weekend, I was golfing with a group of friends.  Because our individual skills varied (aka: I was a bad golfer) we broke into groups to allow the better and faster players to sail through preventing back-ups (good form).  My group consisted of three players including myself.  A fourth player was automatically added to our group by the club manager.  Let’s call the fourth player ‘Richard”. While my skill level was novice at best, my golfing attire was top-notch.  I looked like a pro.  It became clear about the time we hit the third tee box that Richard was frustrated with my level of play and my fabulous outfit was only a disguise.  Mind you, I was trying harder to prevent a course back-up than I was concentrating on my game (second good form attempt). Richard began to indulge his temptations to coach and ridicule.  It began with back-handed compliments such as “We all can’t be good, honey“. to more overt rudeness such as loud exasperated sighs during my swing.  By the eighth  hole, Richard’s rudeness escalated to his phone.  He was loudly retelling the details of my game, play by-play to his friend.  There was laughing involved.  My attempts at good form took a sudden and ugly turn.  In my embarrassment and frustration, I calmly (last good form act) approached him, grabbed is phone and threw it into the pond.  The three seconds that lapsed from throw to tantrum was filled with satisfaction and exhilaration.  I had successfully gained revenge.  The adrenalin I was momentarily enjoying quickly evaporated when Richard launched into a full-fledged freak out which gained the attention of every golfer on the course.  I looked like the offender and Richard was the innocent victim before the world.  My embarrassment took on new form – not one that was nearly as comfortable just three seconds prior.  I immediately regretted my action.  I had engaged in a tit for tat and sunk to Richard’s level of rudeness.  My calm was not controlled and I found myself ashamed.

We will never be able to eradicate the world of rude conduct although I’m giving it my best shot.  We can hope that the next expression of uncivil behavior will not be directed to us personally and if it is, we will stand tall and be proud we handled it will aplomb.

For all you golfers out there, rest assured that you will not see my cute and stylish self on the golf course.  I’ve decided to take up archery instead.  I’m told that it’s tough to miss your target’s.

K. Martini