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Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


10.21.2018

Someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own

I cannot believe how everyone was shouting in the meeting. No one heard anything and nothing got resolved.

My coworkers post such vile things on their Facebook pages. I want to tell them that they’re all idiots.


My colleague stopped talking to our intern because of the candidate she planned to vote for. 


The recent outbreaks of uncivil behavior in the political arena have impacted our everyday experiences, as the comments above testify. But it's time for people to fight back, politely of course, and assert that being uncivil to one another is not the way we want public figures to behave. Nor is it the way we should behave ourselves.

You can be “polite and powerful” and express yourself without resorting to bad behavior. You don’t have to mirror the impolite actions of others.

If you want things to change, the change starts with you. Let me say that again: The change starts with you. Use these tips to encourage polite behavior in the workplace and in your wider world. (These apply to your social media postings, also.)

1. Don’t attack back. Remember that someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own. I know this may be a hard concept to accept, and even harder to implement—but it’s worth practicing. If somebody says something to offend you, it may feel good to respond with a comment like, “Well, what do you know, you idiot?” But this type of response is not going to build your credibility or accomplish anything.  Plus, it gives the other person power over you, by getting you to say things that most people will regret later. 

2. Disagree agreeably. If you have difficulty with someone, talk to the person. Listen to what he or she has to say. You can evaluate an idea without attacking the person who is promoting it. Explain your reasons. Saying, “I see it differently, and here’s why…” is a lot more productive than screaming at people or calling them names. Or, you can say, “Let’s agree to disagree and move on,” and you don’t discuss that topic.

3. Avoid inflammatory words. Using harsh words such as “stupid,” “ignorant,” and “dumb” only inflames a situation, and this approach is unlikely to lead to a positive resolution. Name calling is just wrong--and childish. Cursing at people is not only mean, it also reflects poorly on the one doing the cursing. (Additional information on word choice and how to respond assertively to aggressive comments can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)

4. Remember that it’s hard to be nasty to people who are nice to you.  Keep “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” in your vocabulary. Greet others when you see them. Share, wait your turn, and be gracious toward others. Don’t interrupt people. Help them when you can. And be considerate when sharing space with others. This includes cleaning up after your meeting and making sure that you return any items you borrowed. These behaviors are common sense, but unfortunately they’re not always common practice.

5. Do something. If you really don’t like something, take action. Don’t complain to others, get involved. Join organizations. Volunteer for causes you support. Start a blog where you assertively (politely and powerfully) express your opinions – but make sure you follow your company guidelines, if you do. 

6. Walk away.  And if you don’t want to do any of the above, you can always avoid hostile or impolite discussions by removing yourself from the conversation or taking a social media break.


Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette and communication skills. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or joyce@pachter.com.   

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