The Art Of Advice

How Rude! Tips on Managing Preposterous Behaviour in Public Places

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© Rachel Wolfe 2007

This week, a reader wrote in with a surprisingly simple, yet incredibly valid concern. Read on to learn a little about how to mind your manners and find sanity in a sometimes preposterous world.

Dear Rachel,

What would you do when some people just refuse to have manners? Especially in a public place where some people are just inconsiderate of others around them?

-Ms. Manners 

Dear Ms. Manners,

The answer to your question can easily be broken down into two parts.

1. Don't let others' behaviour get to you.

2. Set an example.

In this day in age, we need to remind ourselves the rules of etiquette are constantly evolving and increasingly diverse as we fuse together different cultures and socities in the global community. Think about it; what's acceptable public behavior in Amsterdam is going to vary greatly from what's considered polite in Japan. Here in the states, we have people from all over walking the same pavement, sharing our trains and sipping coffee together.

While it's easy to forget our manners in public, with distractions like Smart Phones, iPods and busy agendas, I think we can all agree there are certain behaviors that are just not acceptable anywhere. Things like spitting, talking loudly and smacking gum should be commonly unacceptable, but for some reason some will continue to ignore these social guidelines. Even smaller faux pas can sometimes feel like a bigger deal when we're in a hurry or forget that we share our personal "bubble" with hundreds of others.

Here's where that ever-famed golden rule comes into play. We can easily set an example for others with our own behavior. Instead of tapping that lady who snuck in front of you in line on the shoulder, pointing our her rude behavior, you can not take offense to something that probably has nothing to do with you and wait an extra three minutes. You just never know what kind of day someone is having, and there is a good chance she might not have known she did anything wrong. Try to just observe the ill-behavior, notice it and let it go, using it as an example of something you can mindfully not do yourself. By setting a good example with your behavior, others will take notice.

A combination of toleralance and understanding is sure to blend well setting a good example. Maybe if we all walk around a little more focused on making our own behavior better, we will set off cues to those around us. Turning the rude factor down a few notches is going to make our public lives more enjoyable, and if someone does something silly like tell the whole train their whole life story, we can giggle at them instead of turning a miserly glare at them. Transforming something offensive into something funny might not be easy at first, but like good manners, our outlook on life is simply a habit.

Best of luck on finding humor and making the most out of your public and social situations! For more advice, please write to Rach at:

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Jo Harris said:

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You have no idea how grateful I am to you for responding in this manner.Your article was very relevant to me this week following an encounter I had whilst out shopping with my autistic daughter this week. Please take a look at my blog piece concerning this and please everyone, take a breath and think before showing your disapproval of the behaviour of others.

Rachel M. Wolfe said:



Thank you so much for sharing this link! Your writing is very heart warming and enlightening. I hope everyone reads what you have to say! We must be on the same wavelength this week =)

Thanks again. Much heart and care for you,

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