Home Meet Loren Articles Seminars FAQs Skills Self-Assessments Bookstore Conversation Products

Free eZine Signup

Sign up for your
Free Better Conversations eZine to improve your conversation skills.

Your Email Address:


Your e-mail address will not be sold, shared or traded, ever. It will be used only to send you this E-Zine.


© 2006-2014 Loren Ekroth

If you encounter problems with this website, please contact,

Site maintained by :
Candice Coulter


How to Deal with Negative Conversations

The High Cost of Rudeness


Printer This PagePrint This Article
Email This ArticleE-Mail This Article
		  The High Cost of Rudeness   

 In business as in personal life, rudeness carries costs.  Loss of friendships and loss of customers are among them.  In our hurry-up world of impersonal technology, civility has been decreasing, and the connectedness between people has been frayed.       

Ann Chadwell Humphries, a colleague from the National Speakers Association and a national expert on business and professional etiquette, has identified some of the most common rude behaviors in business dealings that people complain about:       

1.  Telephone rudeness:   Not returning calls, taking calls during meetings, abruptly putting callers on hold, interrupting a conversation to take a call.  Gives people the clear impression that you do not consider them important.        

2.  Interrupting :  Finishing people's sentences, or unexpectedly interrupting someone's work, or intruding with a phone call without checking if the person has time to talk. Creates an impression of you as pushy and insensitive.       

3.  Lack of appreciation :  Pointing out flaws and deficits without telling people about a job well done.  People need encouragement to sustain them.  If they get only "sticks" but no "carrots," they will naturally distance themselves from the fault-finder to protect themselves.       

4.  Public criticism :  Being reprimanded in front of others is embarrassing for the recipient and awkward for the observer.  An employee (or a student or a family member) may expect and even want their efforts corrected, but having this done with others present can be humiliating and breeds resentment.       

5.  Coarse and profane language :  Swearing and name-calling ("You idiot!") may be amusing in sitcoms, but such language can even become grounds for legal action in the workplace.    

We prefer to do business with and work for those we like and trust.  However, when affection and trust are destroyed by acts of rudeness, we colleagues, customers and clients often "vote with our feet" and take our business elsewhere.  In the workplace, rudeness impacts morale, productivity, profits, and retention rates, all of these costly items for any business.   

At home and in personal life, rudeness frays marriages and damages friendships. Relatives may avoid attending family events or reunions “if old Ted is going to attend,” the uncle who is profane and argumentative, even though he later says “I was just kidding. I didn't mean anything by my remarks.” A principal cause of rudeness is low energy, aka “running on empty.”   

When we are bombarded with stressors, when we are asked to meet goals and expectations with too few resources and too little time, we can become overly sensitive and react sharply with words and actions we regret later on. Because extreme downsizing has left many organizations operating in a “lean and mean” mode, many customers and co-workers feel assaulted with the “mean” reactions. Then the customers go elsewhere, and some of the best employees quit to look for a more congenial, less stressful workplace.   

One professional area in which the costs of rudeness have been studied and measured is in the relationships between physicians and patients and the families of patients.  These studies have shown that if the physician is seen as uncaring and impersonal, medical malpractice lawsuits may follow, yielding a truly high cost for rudeness.   

If, however, the physician has shown attention and caring, has given time and listened to concerns, the feeling conveyed is that "the doctor did his/her best."   

(If you want to explore further the issue of rudeness and incivility and what can be done, you may wish to consider a hot-off-the-press book by Giovinella Gonthie: Rude Awakenings: Overcoming the Civility Crisis in the Workplace. Dearborn Press, May 2002.)  


Loren Ekroth ©2012, All rights reserved.

Loren Ekroth, Ph.D. is a specialist in human communication and a national expert on conversation for business and social life.

Contact at
Check resources and archived articles at