Beyond remarking “How rude!” I’ve never given much thought to rudeness, but award-winning syndicated advice columnist Amy Alkon’s (“Advice Goddess”) latest book, the science-based and very funny Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck, (St. Martin’s Griffin) has changed that.
When you think of manners, perhaps what comes to mind is which fork to use or the proper decorum at a funeral, but what this book delivers is the day-to-day etiquette of living life in a way that values others. In this comprehensive, science-based, easy-to-read, and hilarious book, Alkon looks at where our rudeness comes from and provides tangible ways for all of us to deal with it.
In her chapter titled “We Are Rude Because We Live In Societies Too Big For Our Brains,” Alkon explains, “We didn’t evolve to be around strangers and aren’t psychologically equipped to live in a world filled with them.” Far from excusing our rudeness, by drawing attention to this “evolutionary mismatch,” she provides much-needed guidance for changing the “ME FIRST/SCREW YOU! meanness permeating our society.”
Whether it is combatting tendencies to be inadvertently rude by commandeering conversations, effectively handling a noisy neighbor, or giving us an all-purpose comeback for cutting remarks, Alkon delivers straightforward, no-nonsense assistance with everyday sticky situations, managing to throw in humor throughout the process.
When it comes to the Internet, like a beacon of sensibility, Alkon makes it clear many of us could benefit from preplanning to avoid the impulsive, emotional electronic overshare that is so tempting because the bells and whistles of the technology make it so easy and even fun to do.
Other online rules from Alkon include: thinking twice about emailing about business outside of business hours, not posting glorious photos of yourself if they also include an unflattering pose by a friend, and not posting your politics on your friend’s Facebook wall without asking first. In Alkon’s words: “Think of your friend’s Facebook wall like their garage door. Tempting as it may be to go over early one Sunday morning and spray-paint your politics across your friends’ garage door, I’m guessing you’d at least wait till they wake up to ask whether they’d mind.”
Speaking of pictures, Alkon gives us a glimpse into just how we can expose (and thus deter) the egregiously rude among us with what she calls “webslapping”: posting photos or “PooTube” videos in the neighborhood of those leaving dog droppings on others’ lawns.
Alkon explains that we need to see rudeness as a form of theft to be able to rise up and speak out to the rude. One example of this is what Alkon explains is the theft of our peace of mind and our attention by the “cellboors” of the world who cram their dull conversations into our brains whether we want to hear them or not.
Other issues Alkon brings up and solves are the theft of our time (and also our peace of mind) by drivers who jam up store parking lot thruways waiting for the closest possible parking spot, the theft of our sleep by apartment residents playing booming music in the wee hours, and the theft of our leg room by storage bin hogs on airplanes. In each situation, Alkon explains what our impulsive reactions to these situations are likely to be and then, turning to behavioral science research, explains what would actually be productive.
All in all, Alkon delivers a bitingly funny and easy-to-relate approach, complete with the occasional funny photo. The ultimate goal of Alkon’s book is to make the world a better place for all of us. In her last chapter, titled “Trickle-Down Humanity,” she notes, “All it takes to get in the habit of treating people as co-human is making it a habit—daily, or better yet, throughout the day.” She explains why this has such a powerful effect on people—especially strangers—we do kind acts for: “We feel a deep need to matter.”
Alkon welcomes you into her heart with many touching personal stories and compels us to stop the rude and change the world one stranger at a time by “Choosing to live connected instead of alienated. Choosing to be a neighbor instead of a bystander.” And reminding us to “leave the campground better than we found it, one co-human we do a little something nice for at a time.” Indeed.
I highly recommend Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck. It is entertaining, candid, valuable, and very well done.
In addition to authoring Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck, Amy Alkon is an award-winning, science-based syndicated advice columnist whose "Advice Goddess" column runs in about 100 newspapers across the U.S. and Canada. She also hosts a weekly science-based Internet radio show, “Nerd Your Way to a Better Life! (with the best brains in science)." Alkon's website: advicegoddess.com. Twitter: @amyalkon. Pinterest book quote page is here.