Perhaps I’m looking through a very cynical lens, but as someone who was raised around the fast food industry, still works in it, and works with a few dozen people on a regular basis (barista, musician, writer, university student), has anyone else noticed that people have become distinctly more dismissive, careless, and just plain rude?
Don’t get me wrong, human beings are very sensitive and fragile — we are often prone to react to things irrationally. But you’d think that we’d be doing better in a time when mental health advocates promote communication.
I began thinking about people’s behaviour after our final set of hardcore COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were dropped earlier in the year and I started working at a mega-popular (and corporate) coffee shop back in May. Prior to that, I was working as a private guitar teacher along with this esteemed newspaper, so my only social interactions since the pandemic were with close friends, family, and some musicians whom I mingled with.
I strangely utilized my time during the pandemic to improve my social skills, though I still struggle with some social barriers: not looking people in the eye, stammering, losing my train of thought, etc. I try to be a good listener, aware of my surroundings, and courteous towards others. After all, why would you want to cause trouble with someone — in public of all places?
In my coffee shop, the floor is quite narrow, similar to a grocery aisle. When you order, there’s room for the line, then some extra space to pass by. The amount of full-blown arguments that have erupted simply because person A was unaware of person B, and caused some minor accident, is truly astounding.
How simple would it have been if one person was just paying attention in an exchange? Even if an accident happens, just say “sorry” and move on. Life gets so much easier when you just COMMUNICATE.
This goes for more than simple courtesy, this should apply to all discussions. As an example, communities like BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ communities are so often overlooked in even the most progressive countries. If you’re being treated unfairly, wouldn’t you want someone to listen to you and care?
We’re meant to evolve as a species. Returning that same courtesy is not difficult. In fact, I would argue that it does wonders for all parties: we can learn from one another and share the opportunity of growth through our bonds. With that, there’s just more trust and understanding.
The next time you find yourself in a difficult conversation, rather than going with your instincts and just reacting, please try doing yourself and others a favour: just listen, show compassion and empathy. Don’t dismiss someone just because you don’t agree with them. It might seem like a lot of work, however once you start doing it, something so small will allow for a significant change.