I am currently living life following the idea that we should treat people how we expect to be treated: the so-called Golden Rule. A universal idea that dates back thousands of years – check
But what does this rule really mean? We are being taught by TV and the latest self-help advice to speak our minds, to be honest and open. However,
speaking even the average mind would potentially lead to war, in one form or another.
Example: A lady came into our dive shop very angry. The conversation went something like what follows:
Lady: Are you Dante?
Me: Hello, yes I am.
Lady: Oh, so you do have internet access, so you could have answered my email? (I was sat at low table and she was stood over me; a tall, stern woman with hair pulled back so tight that her face
appeared in a constant state of shock.
Me: I have patchy internet access, but I am generally pretty good at answering emails. Sorry, I’m not sure I know who you are…
(I was trying really hard at this point not to react, the lady was aggressive, towering over me and accusing me of doing something that isn’t like me – I’m glued to my computer, it’s a curse.)
Lady: I’m Mrs Angry from Couch Surfing, I sent you a message asking for advice about places to stay on the island – you didn’t reply!
Me: Oh right, I remember your message now; I get a lot as we’re the only Couch Surfers here, but I always reply.
(Before I have chance to say that there had been a problem with my internet/computer crashing the Couch Surfing site, she snaps an answer:)
Lady: Well you clearly don’t always reply as I never received anything!
This went on for a while, me apologising for our middle-of-nowhere island internet failing and her snapping at me that I hadn’t replied.
I let it go and then let it go some more. I ignored her remarks about how the
snorkelling was terrible, though she had only actually been out into the island’s harbour. Harbours are never the best place to snorkel generally. The constant threat of being
squashed by an anchor keeps a lot of fish at bay. Plus, the anchors churning up the sand doesn’t give the best visibility.
I was nice and polite; I kept a smile on my face and I was trying to treat the lady how I would want to be treated.
But she was rude. Very rude.
She snapped and went on for at least thirty minutes. It ended with her saying that she wanted to go diving but she was not sure if she will dive with us or the dive shop down the road ‘because
they were nice’. I smiled as she left and she did dive with the other shop in the end. I was thinking, good riddance, but I didn’t let that show.
Now is this really an example of treating someone how I wanted to be treated? I would like to be treated with respect and I like it much better if people are polite to me and use common
Was being polite and respectful the right way to deal with this situation? Are there any limits? Is saying nothing at all about the rude woman’s attitude and letting her talk to me in
such an aggressive manner the right thing to do? Herein lies the debate.
I could have spoken my mind politely, told her that she was being rude and I would rather she start being more polite or go away. At some point I could have said, politely and as nicely as
possible, ‘sorry, can I just stop you there, I don’t understand why you are being like this. I’ve explained what must have happened so there is no reason for this kind of aggression.’
But, if I had, can you imagine the reaction? I can’t for one second think that it would be pretty.
Would challenging her – even in a polite way – have helped? Perhaps not at that precise moment. It might even have made my life much worse for the remainder of the conversation. But
later, maybe, when she sat alone with her memories she might have analysed the meeting and realised there was some truth in what I said.
Do we have a duty to tell people when they aren’t behaving to our liking, or what a decent society would describe as acceptable behaviour?
Should I have told her to shut up and go away? (my default response if I don’t check myself).
What do you think, find me on Twitter or Facebook (or
pretty much any social media todoings) and let me know what you think.