The Sounds of Rudeness

Nasty comments produce an unpleasant noise which disturbs our social atmosphere and is grating on our moods. Expressions of hate induce fear in their targets, and engender unease in others.

This nastiness appeals to the darker parts of people’s natures, and serves as a model of behavior for our youth. There’s a real danger that this will become the ‘acceptable’ manner of public and private discussion.

The current avatar of bullying is Donald Trump, whose statements commonly include narcissistic self-promotion and/or demeaning of others.

Unfortunately, many dissatisfied people are drawn to bluster and demagoguery. They assume that braggarts and bullies make good leaders. They mistake pompous assertions for substantive solutions to real challenges, and rants of hate for meaningful policies.

Communities which value civility and decency are the most successful in terms of personal happiness of citizens, as well as in providing better education, health and culture. Civility means politeness, respect, empathy, cooperation, tolerance and compassion.

When these are threatened by hate-mongers, positive attitudes and behaviors are supplanted by unhappiness, aggression and animosity, which are spread by “social contagion.” The results are increased unrest inside individuals (anxiety, depression, anger) and heightened conflicts between people.

“Just be nice” may be a simplistic panacea, but we all affect each other, and when we act with kindness and civility that same social contagion enables us to contribute to a sense of well being in others. We know that groups and communities – families, friends, towns, schools, companies, hospitals, teams – which are supportive and have positive interpersonal vibes are much more likely to thrive and benefit individuals, relationships and society.

If we paid as much attention to increasing our positive emotional footprint (benevolence, cooperation, empathy) and reducing our negative emotional footprint (antagonism, aggression, violence) as we do to reducing our carbon footprint, human beings and societies could greatly lessen the prevalent rancor and fighting.

We humans have the knowledge and means to elevate our more noble traits to become our primary personal and social goals.

When will we ever learn…?

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