In a recent article for Psychology Today, licensed clinical social worker Linda Esposito considers the potential psychological effects of rudeness vs civility and how to promote psychological well-being for ourselves and others.

Here are some highlights from the article (full version here):

“… the internet and social media allows us to post comments anonymously and hide behind default avatars. This lack of transparency encourages some of us to say things we normally wouldn’t have the courage to communicate directly.”

“… like the common cold, rudeness is easily contracted, and exposure to one episode can have long-lasting effects. Not only can anyone be a carrier, but also ‘rudeness activates a semantic network of related concepts in individuals’ minds, and that this activation influences individuals’ hostile behaviors.’ When we’re around rudeness, we may even misinterpret ambiguous behavior as hostile…”

“Acting with kindness and grace won’t eradicate mental conditions like anxiety and depression… However, it’s the easiest way to ward off those behaviors which quickly spiral out of control and negatively affect our mental state.”

“In a world full of heartache, turmoil, and instability, there is no reason to add rudeness to the mix. Even if others choose incivility, we don’t have to follow suit.”

What will I do to stop the contagion of obnoxious behavior now before it spreads like wildfire?

Find the scientific publication cited in the article here: Catching rudeness is like catching a cold: The contagion effects of low-intensity negative behaviors (Foulk et al., 2016)

Additional articles along the same lines:

Rude color glasses: The contaminating effects of witnessed morning rudeness on perceptions and behaviors throughout the workday (Woolum et al., 2017)

The impact of rudeness on medical team performance: A randomized trial (Riskin et al., 2015)

F U Very Much: Understanding the Culture of Rudeness and What We Can Do About It (Wallace, 2018)