You Readers Are So Pathetic


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“Emotions are contagious. We’ve all known it experientially. You know after you have a really fun coffee with a friend, you feel good. When you have a rude clerk in a store, you walk away feeling bad.”

Daniel Goleman, Author of Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ

If you read my rude title, you will be disappointed to discover that I don’t think you are pathetic, but a new scientific study proves being rude to someone is contagious. When you are rude to two people, they are rude to two people and so on and so on and so on. In other words, rudeness spreads faster than a shampoo endorsement between friends in the 70s and it can destroy your Customer Experience.

The study by researchers at the University of Florida showed that during a negotiation exercise when one of the participants was rude, it offended their partner. Their offended partner then took a spiteful action against them (there was a money split as part of the negotiation that could be equal, selfish, or spiteful.) However, what was interesting was that the offended partner was also more likely to be rude to their negotiation partner in the next interaction.

So Why is Rudeness Contagious?

Researchers posit that the rude interaction brings the idea of rudeness to the front of mind awareness. In a second experiment, researchers had participants recognize “rude-related” words. They discovered that when the participants witnessed a rude confrontation between and experimenter and someone who arrived late (it was staged), the participants recognized the words much faster. Moreover, in a third experiment, participants didn’t give people the benefit of the doubt if their comments could be interpreted as rude if they saw a rude interaction beforehand.

As many of you know, I’m British. We Brits have a reputation for maintaining the highest standards of manners and being polite to a fault.

At the risk of stating the obvious, being polite to Customers in a Customer Experience is critical. Even when they aren’t. Monty Python’s Flying Circus demonstrates what not to do as a Customer-Facing employee: (Be warned: there are some insensitivities references to gender orientation in here).

Stop the Flow of Rudeness

There are many instances where rudeness can occur in a Customer interaction. Unfortunately, it can happen on either side. While you can train your employees how to respond to rude employees, there isn’t that much you can do about the Customers. I am going to be speaking about this at Customer Engagement Summit in London on November 26th.

In some extreme cases, you can fire the Customer. The Customer isn’t always right, after all. But you can’t fire all the Customers that are rude in an exchange. After all, everyone has a bad day now and then.

What is important is to give your team the tools to stop the flow of rudeness.  Help them recognize when they are feeling the compulsion to spread the rude on to the next Customer, and give them a way to stop themselves. It can be language to use, a distraction to employ or an escape valve, but whatever it is, it needs to be available to them at the moment. It needs to give them a way to give the next Customer the benefit of the doubt so they can say/do/perform what’s necessary to evoke a better emotion going forward.

It all comes down to Emotional Intelligence. It’s a skill that facilitates better decisions at the moment from your team. And it’s a skill that might save a Customer who is having a bad day from having a bad experience with your brand. Because you know they will tell two friends, and then they will tell two friends, and so on and so on, and so on.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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