We’ve all seen it. You’re sitting at a restaurant, enjoying a nice meal, and you hear the man at the next table cursing the waitress out over his steak being cooked to medium well instead of medium (or a woman yelling over not receiving a fork, the food took too long to get there, the dressing isn’t on the side, and on and on forever.) I don’t know about you, but almost nothing makes me cringe more than rude behavior. Every day, people who are just trying to do their job are treated terribly…and for what? Basically, rude behavior stems from our society’s sense of entitlement….and our love of time and money.We’re an egocentric culture and our behavior intimates that we feel as though we deserve the world on a plate for free, and we deserve it right now. (And don’t you make me wait an extra three minutes or I will shoot death lasers out of my eyes and tell you about your incompetence or complain loudly about you within earshot.)

The smallest inconvenience has a way of revealing the true nature of a person. In business, I see this more often than I’d like to, and wish that I could communicate with clients that their negativity doesn’t amount to much, and won’t accomplish a thing.  Throwing a fit in the line at Safeway because the woman in front of you is writing a check, paying with 38 coupons, or arguing with the checker over a price, will NOT change the fact that you still have to wait. Screaming at the customer service agent from the cable company over a late installation doesn’t turn back time and get you your cable three hours earlier. Calling a mechanic every 30 minutes to ask whether or not your car is done being serviced will not make the process go any faster. All that happens when you decide to complain to/nag/stare down/yell at a service worker is your anger level increases, and their happiness decreases. Sounds like a win win for everyone…

Is waiting the extra three minutes in line really such an ordeal that you need to ruin someone’s day? Is your self-control so out of whack that you can’t stop yourself from staring down the checker at the grocery store? The level we as a society stoop to over a handful of minutes and/or dollars is shameful,and a true indication of our hearts. Sometimes I feel like asking some of these people if they also want their oompa loompa NOW! We’re a society chock-full of Veruca Salts. We “don’t care how, “we” want it now!” It’s like we’re brazenly proclaiming to anyone trying to HELP us that “I want the world. I want the whole world. I want to lock it all up in my pocket. It’s my bar of chocolate. Give it to me now.” Charming isn’t it? While all of us may not be quite as over-the-top as dear old Veruca, the spirit and belief system of “I DESERVE it NOW” definitely exists in a shocking number of today’s consumers.

I’ve seen waitresses cry, checker’s eyes fill with fear as they survey a growing and grumbling line of people, and have felt my heart sink numerous times when checking my inbox. Service workers are forced to live in fear of the consumer….constantly waiting for the next confrontation. Is this the way we really want to behave? The way we want to make people feel? (Yep, the other figure that you’re screaming at, sending rude emails to, and glaring at oh so lovingly….is a PERSON. Another human being. Maybe we should treat them as such?)

Think about it…The waitress has a dozen tables to check on (and isn’t the person preparing the food!). The checker has been standing on their feet for hours on end, dealing with grumpy person after grumpy person doing fairly monotonous work. The same is true of bank tellers, customer service reps, mechanics, repairmen, retail workers, food service employees, anyone at the airport, and on and on….You encounter countless people throughout the day who work to serve other people…and for what? For a barely liveable wage and a pile of ingratitude if you ask me….How would the world change if we decided that HUMANITY was more important than our two extra minutes? What if those dedicated men and women serving us throughout the day were worth more to us than our money? What if we stopped to realize that our attitudes and actions actually affect the outcome of other people’s days (and sometimes their lives?)

Here’s my plea to you today…SMILE at the checker. Use a CALM VOICE when you speak to someone on the phone. TIP well. Don’t treat the retail store like your own personal bedroom…(Yep, someone actually has to clean up behind you and re-fold all those clothes you let your kid throw on the floor.) Realize that the person on the phone is not the one who made up the policy you’re angry about. The waitress or server did not ruin your food themselves. You are not the only client of the professional you’re waiting on. The doctor does not set out to make you sit in the waiting room all day. Not every repairman who lets you know something is broken is trying to sucker you for more money. Just realize that the worker you’re about to scream at has actual feelings and emotions. Go out of your way to MAKE THEIR DAY BETTER. I LOVE taking the opportunity to strike up a friendly chat with a checker or teller who has just been reamed by another customer. I love re-assuring a waitress that I’m not upset by the wait. The smile and utter relief on their face is priceless…I mean really, what would your thoughts on humanity be if 8 of every 10 people you dealt with were horrible to you? Let’s change things for those in the service industry….change our world…change US. Realize that you’re not the only person in their day. As much as we’d like it to, the world doesn’t revolve around us, and we are not everyone’s VIP. There isn’t a magical “eggdicator” to send the bad eggs down the garbage chute, so it’s up to us to decide to change….to set an example for our children…Ask yourself the next time you’re about to blow up at a service worker (or even send them a not so subtle message via body language and eye contact) how you would react if your child did the same thing. I think the world would be full of adults sitting in time out if we held ourselves to the same standards we hold our children to.Do we want our kids to grow up to treat people the way we do? Let’s send Veruca down the trash chute once and for all, and realize that it’s okay if we have to wait just a bit longer for that oompa loompa…Let’s change the attitude, and then the world.