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Don’t Be Rude; It Spreads like a Virus

What’s worse than spreading the common cold to your co-workers? Spreading rudeness. According to research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, negative behavior, such as perceived rudeness, is highly contagious.

The study, documented in this science daily article, shows that when we perceive someone as being rude or disrespectful, we are more likely to perceive rudeness in later interactions and in turn, more likely to act in similar manners, spreading the rudeness bug even further around the office.

Lead author of the study Trevor Foulk, a doctoral student in management at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business Administration says “You’ll see more rudeness even if it’s not there.”

And to make matters worse, we don’t even need to be the direct target of the rudeness or disrespect, just merely witnessing it allows us to be hypersensitive to rudeness and convey it back onto our peers.

According to Foulk “Rudeness has an incredibly powerful negative effect on the workplace.”

It seems as though once this behavior, or interpretation of behavior starts, it is very hard to put an end to it. An effective way to combat building the hostility in the office is through an understanding of SOCIAL STYLE.

By understanding Style, we can learn how to more accurately assess our peers’ behaviors, and thus make a better judgement of whether they were truly being impolite or if they were acting in behaviors that just happen to be more comfortable for them. In fact, a lot of misinterpretations of rudeness can come from a lack of understanding of SOCIAL STYLE.

For example, Bob, an Expressive Style person is interacting with Mike, an Analytical Style person. Monday morning, Bob bursts into Mike’s office because he has an exciting camping story to tell Mike. In Bob’s mind he is so proud of the story, he just can’t wait to share it with Mike, who he knows equally loves camping, and thinks that it will impress Mike and possibly even strengthen his and Mike’s relationship. But Mike interprets the exchange completely differently. Mike can’t help but think how rude it was of Bob to barge into his office, without even asking if it was an appropriate time and then continue to ramble on about a story when Mike has some very hard deadlines to hit.

Mike tries to give Bob the signal that right now is an inappropriate time by not paying full attention to his story, and continuing to work without making eye contact or showing  any enthusiasm regarding Bob’s story. Now both Bob and Mike interpret the other as rude, when in reality, neither had any intention of being rude.

By understanding SOCIAL STYLE, we can understand which behaviors come off as rude or inappropriate to others, and also realize the way others are acting is due to their SOCIAL STYLE. This is known as Versatility.

Want to learn more?

Learn how SOCIAL STYLE can help with common business problems.

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