I need to vent, so I write, rather than speak

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that by and large people’s levels of doling out shit behaviour seem to be on the rise? I saw it at the supermarket the other day, when that rather large woman squeezed herself not-so-gently, in front of the timid looking chowkidar who had his arms full of umpteen bottles of Coke. She just had a single loaf of bread to bill, and evidently that gave her the right to cut the queue, right in front of someone who didn’t speak her language, and couldn’t revolt, or tell her to behave and get in line. I could have, but I let it pass.

I saw it the other day when one my office staff barged into the room most disruptively, visibly in a huff he loudly pottered around and slammed the door as he walked out, completely shattering the focus in the room where a bunch of us were quietly trying to work. I could have told him to behave. But I didn’t. I let it pass.

I saw it at the horribly organised shop where I walked in looking for a clothes stand. I wanted a particular size and make, and because the shopkeeper looked like he couldn’t find his way around the mess, I launched into a long explanation about why I need it to be rust-proof and foldable. He didn’t seem to care to understand, rudely dismissing me, like I was wasting his time with my explanation. But when he admonished me for not taking what he had, I was pissed. But then this is Goa, and I’m used to second-hand treatment. So I let it slide. Again.

For the last two days I have been in the midst of a shouting marathon thanks a project that’s driving a colleague up the wall, resulting in raging tempers, loud and angry phone calls and general cacophony. Finding it distracting, disruptive and terribly insensitive, I felt I should speak up. But I let it slide, Yet again. Who wants to add to what seems like a visibly ginormous work mess anyway? But when said colleague, who has a megaphone permanently shoved down her throat, asked me to keep it down because my mere conversation was distracting, not once, but almost 4 times in a day, I thought the shit behaviour had to stop.

So I spoke up. Politely, but firmly. And I will forever go down a the bitch for this.

It sucks to be caught in the midst of a bitch-fest when you’re otherwise a rather introverted, peace-living, non-confrontational kind of person. It sucks even more when you have to unnecessarily get caught in the rage that’s generally flying around and needs to find a target. It sucks even more so when the source for said bitch-fest, hate and rage is very obviously coming from an unhappy place. It sucks to be the one to point something simple out. It sucks to be the one to put a badly behaved person in place. It really does. I hate doing it. Ordinarily, I would have just let it go, because it is much easier than to pick issues and complicate things in an already stressful situation. But sometimes, being nice bites you back in the ass, and that’s when I begin to wonder. Why is it that everywhere I see tempers flaring? Are we growing increasingly weak in the face of client pressures? So weak that we forget the basics of how to behave in a work place? Has being in the service industry not trained us enough to deal with client idiosyncrasies, without letting it affect who we are? Have we become those horribly insular people who think one bad day is reason enough to not care about anything but our client woes and bad moods?

It also makes me wonder why I’m always being the nice guy.Recently, someone asked me what kind of reaction I usually have when I witness something wrong. I didn’t have to think very hard when I said I’m the passive sort. The sort that will try and peacefully intervene if possible. If not, I will quietly walk away like its not my business. Today I wondered, when did I become this person? The passive person watching shit go down in front of my eyes. Feeling so strongly about it, yet unable to find a voice to speak up?

Then I saw this on Pinterest:

Obviously, its not as easy for some of us. Where does one draw the line? When is the right time to speak up? I still don’t have the answers.

So I turned on this song on loop

And proceeded to calm my quickly-fraying nerves.

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25 thoughts on “I need to vent, so I write, rather than speak

  1. Don’t have any answers, unfortunately, to any of the questions you’ve raised. And I’m anything BUT the passive sort. Yet – YET – I find myself asking the same questions all the time. Because having to speak up gets tiring, too.

    Having said that, I don’t think people’s tendency to dole out crap has gone up. I think it was always this way. If anything, I think it has gone down. So we’re less used to it and hence much more affected when it happens. We all live such insular lives these days, a lot of what my parents called “human behavior” I now call crap. For instance, they had neighbors who’d fight and yell all the time and yet be found in one-another’s homes for celebrations or even just a cup of tea. I don’t know the names of most of my neighbors, so a smile and cheerful hello reciprocated with half a smile and an absent-minded, less than cheerful hello affects me. Okay, so it affects me very little, but mentally I do a Punjabi “huh!” with a toss of the head. (At 0:33 in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJEgYEYvFhw&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PLC77D20F95032E4D7)

    I find it so easy to quit after a small amount of unpleasantness that I can’t quite imagine how so many of my parents’ and their friends’ relationships were DEFINED BY how they handled the unpleasantness.

    • I think you make an important point about being less used to it, therefore being more affected when faced by it. We DO live insular lives, and that’s a truth I cannot escape, even if I try and be less insular in my own life and ways, I guess I cant say the same for people around me. More so the obviously insensitive kind (read: colleague in post). That said, it still doesnt justify this gross display of bratty behaviour, dont you think? And it certainly doesnt justify me having become passive and quiet and anti-confrontational, especially when I am in the right.

      Im not saying one should go pick a fight every chance you get, but I do think that our standards for what is acceptable behavious in general have dropped. We are far more chalta hai about these things. And what starts as small instances that dont go corrected, grow into larger atrocities, by which time its too late to stand up and say anything.

      Sorry, I just ranted again.

      • I think people are increasingly badly behaved these days. Maybe it’s just happening in India, as more and more people fight for fewer and fewer resources. I don’t know if its a local or a global phenomenon but I see it happening around me all the time.

        I find so many people around me are inconsiderate, thoughtless, and sometimes, downright rude. In airports, in trains, in supermarkets, in coffee shops, everywhere! And since I am a very non-confrontational person, I always let it pass, and easily find excuses to let it pass. But one fine day, I decided enough was enough, and am now learning to speak up and say “Hey, you can’t do this and get away with it”.

        I’m learning to be assertive, without being aggressive. And for someone like me, its tough to be assertive, because I don’t want to become “the bitch” even if it is to someone I will never see again. But someone has to tell it the way it is, no?

        • You and I sound like we’re talking the same thing, in different parts of the country. I’m glad Im not the only one then. But youre right, someone needs to start somewhere. Even if it is small things that disrupt our normal everyday lives in some way.

      • Oh it doesn’t justify their behavior AT ALL. I was just commenting on whether I found things any different these days than when I was a kid. And my conclusion is that I didn’t exactly grow up around model adults! That, and the fact that my standards are definitely higher now, though that could be more about me than society. I used to take all kinds of crap from people as a kid. Now, it’s as if the beast within has been unleashed!

  2. I was in bangalore airport a few months ago, standing in line waiting to get bags through security check. I had waited for a while, and was finally second in line when this lady tried to cut in. She was old, sure, but able to be at the airport without assistance and carry her bag on her own, so definitely has not need to try and cut into a line that was moving quickly and efficiently.
    I stopped her. “Excuse me ma’am, but there is a line”. That woman gave me a look that clearly said she was disgusted with my behaviour. But when I spoke up, all the other girls behind me who were silent all the while when the lady was walking past them, backed me up as well and said ” yes! there IS a line! Please go back!” and the lady left. I’m sure she would not have felt ashamed though. She’s probably going to go back and complain about the younger generation and how they have no respect for the old people. And that kind of entitlement that these people feel has existed for ages. Respect needs to be earned. You do not automatically gain respect from me for having lived longer. I will treat you only as you deserve to be treated.

    And people like your colleague definitely need to be told to control themselves.
    But since it’s a work situation, it’s very tricky, cos you still need to work together and maintain your relationship. Maybe you take a deep breath, ask to speak to the person in private (so she feels less embarrassed by your confrontation and hence less defensive), and tell her how you’re feeling and that maybe she’s acting out cos she’s stressed, maybe SHE needs to take a deep breath and calm down…think about how she’s behaving and how you are being affected by it. What do you think?

    • Iv witnessed this, with people who pretend to be lost and flustered, just to get ahead of a line in the airport. And in such situations Im quick to speak up. Its in places where the confrontation is with familiar faces that I choose the path of least resistance. I become passive. I chicken out. Because somewhere I worry what will happen to my cordial relationships with them, what will others think of me? But yesterday I just had reached my brink.

      What I did was exactly that. I didnt just walk in scream and walk out. All I asked her to do was calmly think about how she was flustered and distracted by noise for two whole days and how we have tolerated it because it was pretty clear she *was* having a bad day. I merely pointed out that her loud way of talking was just as disturbing to us, and that she needs to slow down and tone it down just a bit. All I said was please think about it. Her response is what sent my fuse up in flames and really got to me. But that reaction can be attributed to something else, which is not worth my time, effort or thought. So I walked out annoyed. But happy that I had stood my ground.

  3. *Standing ovation for this post*

    Trust me, you’re not the only one who feels that bad behaviours are escalating. I was, in fact, amazed to see the amount of bad behaviour and rudeness at my last company. I didn’t speak up for all the shit that happened, but after a point, I started standing up for myself and speaking up for at least the shit that happened to me. And it worked. I am happy I did.

    My last organisation made me really aware of just how rude people can get, and how easily they can say I-give-a-damn-about-you-but-I-will-still-continue-to-bring-my-work-to-you. That was one reason I was as happy as I was sad when I quit that organisation. I am at a place now where the people are much more polite and well-behaved.

    That experience made me observe people closely, and I saw bad behaviour generally on the rise. On the road, in supermarkets, offices, gardens, vegetable markets, everywhere. I was thinking of doing a similar post too, but then let it go.

    Most people seem to give a damn about the way they behave these days. I understand life is complicated – there are pressures, there are deadlines – but that’s no excuse to be boorish. You can be busy, but you can still be polite, is what I believe.

    Like you, I am also a quiet person who does not want confrontations. But it does hurt to see such attitudes and behaviour, more so when it is directed at you for no reason.

    • More than the hurt, I feel such incredible rage when I see someone behaving in a manner that is totally uncalled for.

      Im glad you sorted out your troubles at work and moved on :) Power to you!

    • hahaha excellent idea. i thought about it, but then decided against it. im not sure how everybody else will take to seeing a poster that says “dont be a dick” :)

  4. Totally with you sister! After living abroad for 7 years, I think I had forgotten how insensitive we can be to each other. It was a shock to me in the beginning, but now I speak up. That man and his two fashionable daughters who thought it is perfectly alright to cut the line at the airport security, the guy at the office cafeteria who thought it is beyond him to wait in queue like others, those two giggly teenagers at the store who were too impatient to join the queue…all of them got it from me. :)

  5. The question is not whether you want to speak or not. Rather if you want to handle the repurcussions. People displaying bad behaviour can rarely be shamed into changing. Instead any confrontation is taken as an invitation to a slam-fest. Which is ok if you are interacting with a stranger who will be out of your life in two seconds. But no so ok if you are going to bear the said person through a work day. Sometimes I try humour. But can’t say it always works.

    • Well thats precisely my point.. Wrong is wrong, and ideally should be pointed out whether you’re going to deal with the person everyday or not. Actually I would imagine if you have to deal with the person everyday, it is even more important that the behaviour be corrected. In my case however, we dont work on the same team. So we dont interact. Also post the incident, Im pretty sure I have no respect for the colleague in question, and have been turned off for life.

  6. You’re not the only one (though I think that should be clear from the comments so far too). I despair of what’s happening around me. For a long time I used to treat people politely until they gave me reason to do otherwise. Now, I’m more guarded and neutral. Politeness/ niceness is taken as weakness, and I hate that! I’m not weak, just well-mannered, can’t they see the difference?

    Some things that absolutely piss me off:

    1. The supermarket thing you mentioned. Only, in my case, the nearby supermarket billing guys actually ASK people with a single item to come forward. I don’t know why I’m being penalized for spending more. If it bothers them so much, they should have an express lane and then I won’t complain.

    2. People who speak in our native languages and use the very casual singular when addressing you. Excuse me, when I speak to you, I use the respectful plural, and surely it wouldn’t hurt too much for you to do the same? The worst bit was when a prospective maid addressed me that way. Out she went, no interview, no haggling, nothing. The first time you address me, IF it’s done so casually, how can I expect to have a good employee-employer relationship? It speaks wonders about the person’s attitude when they address you so casually.

    3. Being inconsiderate. I have a lot to say about this, but won’t spam your comment space. Let’s just say I hate it when people don’t do the “do to others as you would have them do to you” thing. They don’t do X, but expect that of you. How unfair is that?!

    4. Old people who think they can push you into doing something just because they’re old. Grr. I’ve had a horrible experience with a person who thought her old age was her passport to getting things done through me. Grow up mentally!

    Phew. I’ll stop now before my blood starts boiling.

  7. Whoa! Your colleague sounds… really.. audacious!

    I have nothing to add beyond what has already been said earlier, except adding two cents about people who believe that raising their kids does not only just take a village, but an entire airport or aircraft too (other places as well I’m sure, but I’m most irritated by it during travel). I know I become the bitch automatically as I say this, but even though I have learnt to complete ignore crying kids on an aircraft, I cannot and will not politely smile as your kid runs up and down the aisle like a maniac, or expects me to entertain her 100 questions when I’m attempting to catch some sleep. Another pet peeve of mine is people requesting for change of seats on a flight because they want to sit together. All the others who make sure that they either do a web check-in or get there in time to be able to ask for a preference at the desk itself, are obviously fools. Once or twice, if there’s a small child involved or something, one can accommodate it but I have been asked for this a good 50% of the last few flights. If you’re flying alone and you refuse to oblige seeing that the people who “want to sit together” are two adults, the dirty looks you’re given are sure to spoil your day.

    rant over :(

  8. I came here via The Mad Momma’s blog. I think it’s very important to call out bad behavior. I can be extremely bitchy at times and sound exactly like your coworker but when my 7 year old points out that I’m being a meanie, it puts things in perspective. It makes me contrite and causes me to rethink my behavior. So, yes please do call out bad behavior. People may not thank you right away, but it may give them pause the next time they want to indulge in the same.

    • Yes thats what im beginning to think. And thats what prompted me to tick it off right then and there. Theres nothing worse than adults who have like children and need to be told how to behave. Ugh!

  9. Pingback: Things that make me go hmmm « hAAthi

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