+

James Wanless

this is where I write

Consideration

Or, rather a lack thereof. I know I’m not always as compassionate as I could or should be, but generally I think I manage to consider those around me pretty well. It’s not hard. Don’t jump queues, don’t reach in front of people, excuse yourself, hold doors open when you can … In general just try to ensure what you’re doing doesn’t impact others negatively, or that your convenience creates a hardship elsewhere.

All of us occasionally and accidentally has a negative impact on someone around us. When you hopefully come to the conclusion you’ve done this, apologize. That will usually go a long way to fixing things. Sadly, the odd time someone behaves boorishly and actually does apologize, it’s so rare that my chin is usually dragging on the floor.

And then, there’s the problem of holding others to a similar standard to the one I try and set. Ultimately, I know this is where things break down for me. Since it’s how I try to act, I set myself up for disappointment by having standards at all. Unfortunately, self-interest runs deep and strong in public encounters. Pubs, coffee shops, anywhere entitled dog folk are, parking lots and even my own strata are breeding grounds for the Ricky Bobby mantra …

How then to change things? History tells me if you call people out they’ll have one of three reactions and nothing will change for the better. Pretending you don’t exist is the most common strategy (which basically says they know they’re wrong, but if they don’t acknowledge you it’ll just go away), followed closely by obtuse defensiveness to the point of denial in the face of clear visual evidence. The least common, but perhaps most annoying strategy is to actually admit the behaviour (“Yeah, so … and …”) and then justify it by claiming you did something totally unrelated and far worse six months ago, despite the fact this is the first they’ve mentioned it. That last one is my favourite neighbour’s approach.

I’d like to say it’s mostly people inadvertently having this impact while not trying to, but the sheer volume of people who react via the second or third strategy above, suggests to me that many of the self-interested know exactly what they’re doing and simply don’t give a shit how their behaviour impacts others.

I’ve learned, perhaps too late in life though, that frank discussions about manners are almost impossible and I’ve mostly given up trying to have them. It’s understandable because any open discussion of behaviour is, first and foremost, considered an affront to those receiving the feedback. However, just leaving bad behaviour hanging in the air like a peach rotting on the tree isn’t great either because, like rotting fruit, it spreads and affects more people the longer it isn’t stopped.

I’ll admit, aside from ignoring it more often, I’m failing at dealing with this issue effectively.

Top