Rev Cat

B Polite or B Rude?

I loved this license plate as soon as I saw it. And it was not hard to figure out why someone had selected it – there is a lot of rudeness in our culture these days, a significant amount of it on the road. Of course were all familiar with bumper stickers – but a license plate is a bigger commitment to a value statement. So hooray for B Polite, whoever you are…

I’ve been a big fan – and practitioner – of politeness all my life, and I do not believe that  the cultural shift towards rudeness, sometimes promoted sometimes as raw honesty or as a compensation for having been silenced in the past, or even as an expression of outrage – benefits anyone.

And yet. I’m aware of how often the desire to be polite leads us into conflict avoidant silence. That’s the other end of the teeter totter, and can’t solve the problem of rudeness by sitting on it. Many of us have a strong desire to avoid conflict, especially wanting to avoid getting into a verbal dual (that we feel sure we will lose)  with those who are quite comfortable with aggressive language and outbursts.

There is a third way.

It’s possible to say what is true for you respectfully, authentically and strongly – all at the same time.

Outrage, for example, doesn’t have to be expressed as name-calling, labeling or making  assertions about the motivations of others. It can be expressed as an “I statement “in terms of the needs that, for you, are not being met. This can look something like:

“When I hear you make that kind of joke, I feel heartbroken and furious at the same time. I so much want all people to be held with respect, and so that kind of humor isn’t funny to me. It deeply offends my longing for a world of fairness and equality in which everyone is seen and valued for the person they are.”

Notice that this is entirely a values-based “I statement.”

If you are up from some black belt spiritual work, and you feel confident you can stay grounded in your own non-reactivity, you can follow up by offering respectful connection to the who has just made the offensive remark, by following up with. “I wonder if you would tell me how it is for you to hear me say that.”

This third way is different than either the standard B Polite (because it offers a challenge) OR B Rude (because it refrains from labeling and judging the other person).

If you decide to try out this game-changing “third way” responding to what you find offensive, I’d love to hear about how it goes for you.

With You on the Path,


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