Down With Rude People!!!

I traveled to Paris once many years ago and was told that French people could be unfriendly and rude.  And during my trip, that’s kind of what I experienced.  But before I went to Paris just recently, I asked a friend of mine who has spent LOTS of time in France to tell me everything I needed to know about how to make the most of my trip.  She told me something really interesting.

She said that in Paris, when you go into a store, restaurant, or even up to a ticket window, consider this:  That at least in the mind of the person whose space you have just entered, you are walking into their HOME.  Therefore, the FIRST thing you should say (with a warm, friendly smile), is “Bonjour!” (hello.) I mean, would you just walk into ANYONE’S house without at least saying hello?

I didn’t think too much about what she said, but when I got to Paris I noticed something very interesting.  I would see something nice in a store window, go inside to find it and (here comes the part I’m not proud of) walk RIGHT PAST THE SALES PERSON OR STORE OWNER WITHOUT SAYING A WORD.  Why did I do that? Because that’s my automatic, unthinking habitual behavior – my default program whenever I walk into a store.  I EXPECT them to say hi to me – but I don’t AUTOMATICALLY say hi to them first.  Sometimes I might, but not (I discovered on this trip) as a rule.

How did I even notice that this was happening?  Because a couple of times the sales person or owner would say to me, “Bonjour…?”  With a subtext that conveyed, “Um, hello? Did you even notice me? What am I, chopped liver?”

Yes! I heard it in their tone!  And of course in that moment I would gasp and say, “Oh! Bonjour, mademoiselle! Bonjour!” (in my happiest, most apologetic, sincerest way).  THEN, most of the time, the person would smile at me.

I’d like to say that I corrected the problem and never repeated my offensive behavior. But, not so.  I did do it again.  Sometimes I remembered, and by the end of the trip, I was getting pretty good at it, but I was stunned at how many times I forgot, even when it was VERY clear to me that (and here comes the important part):  I was considered the unfriendly rude one.  Me. Moi. 

What I discovered was that when I experienced a “rude, unfriendly Parisian,” it was because I HAD CREATED THEM! What I saw is how easy it is to place ALL blame on another person for something and absolutely not see my role in creating an outcome.  Oh man. That is SO not what I wanted to realize.

Join me, won’t you?  Just for this next week, every single time you go into a store or a restaurant, be the first person to say hello in your friendliest warmest way.  See if 1) you actually remember to do it and 2) it makes a difference in how friendly the other person is to you.

Hey. We just might eliminate ALL the rude people in the world with this one, right?

From your VERY idealistic motivational speaker, Linda Larsen, ready to own her part in the problem




Motivational Speaker Linda Larsen, CSP has been described by meeting planners and audiences as "hysterically funny," and "riveting." Known for her ability to connect on an authentic and emotional level with audiences, her spontaneous sense of humor, and her engaging and powerful stories, Linda is passionate about sharing ideas to help people live their finest, best, and most productive lives. Her riveting and true story of being kidnapped and held hostage at gunpoint by an escaped convict, and the strategies she used to escape, will give people the tools THEY need to rise above any of life's toughest challenges, to communicate more effectively with THEIR difficult person, and to find creative solutions to THEIR problems. To book motivational speaker, Linda Larsen: 941-927-4700

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  1. I LOVE this idea Linda! Count me in!!! And shame on me for treating these people like they are invisible – like they owe me the kindness. We owe them just as much kindness. Thank you for shining the light. I’m off to create a better world.

    • Thanks, Kelly!  And I know – this whole thing was SUCH an eye-opener for me!  I consider myself to be pretty nice and friendly, but was STUNNED at how many times I automatically walked right past the store clerk – like some mindless zombie: “Purple necklace…must have purple necklace…other humans do not exist for me…”  God help me please.

  2. Such a great idea – and I agree!  I have always told people going to France to at least attempt to speak French.  After all these years, I still can’t speak fluent French, but I have learned to greet people and then after they speak really fast French back to me, I have also learned to say, I am sorry, but I don’t really speak French.  C’est tout!   It always get’s a smile!  

  3. Wonderful post! I’m hearing my father say, “Smile and the world smiles with you!” I’m up for the smile connection challenge….thanks, Linda.

  4. Great blog and wonderful practice Linda… I look forward to the week ahead and focusing my attention and energy on this and seeing what shows up… I suspect that minimally, I’ll learn something about myself and how I show up in and interact with the world. I also suspect that by engaging with this practice, I’ll have a great week – and for that – thanks Linda!

    • Okay, I’m confused.  Paul, it seems I saw a different post from you about this on my iPhone – which I LOVED but couldn’t respond to (my fingers are WAY too big to be eloquent on an iPhone).  Anyway, now I log on to respond to it – but it appears to be gone.  Did I dream it?

      • Greetings Linda, you didn’t dream it. I removed it because when I posted my response to your blog, I had no intention whatsoever of offending anybody… most of all I certainly didn’t want to offend you or be inappropriate in this blog space that I’m grateful to have been invited to share with you and the other highly respected  motivational speakers who regularly contribute to this site. Some of the feedback I received on my post included recommendations that I remove it. That said, given that you loved  it… here you go:

        Greetings Linda… sitting at my keyboard I’m wondering what the potential backlash to my identity might be given what I have to say… oh well… as someone who grew up in Africa – and for whom freedom of speech is still something of a novelty – I’m going to exercise my right and share the response your post evoked in me.

        My experience as a former “foreigner” now naturalized and extremely proud to be American… who travels extensively… is that broadly speaking we Americans are often assessed as being kinda rude and kinda arrogant. Having explored the assessment over the years with folks in Europe, Africa, Asia, the middle and far East… the one common misconception I run into time and time again, is that our rudeness and arrogance is widely perceived as being demonstrative of a lack of care. I get a sense of that you glimpsed what I’m pointing at whilst in Paris.

        When engaging in these conversations, I keep inviting anyone who will listen to consider rather that not only do we care – as Americans we care deeply. We care about world hunger, we care about democracy and human rights… we care about the health, well-being and dignity of all peoples.

        If there is any veracity to my theory though – how and why do we so consistently evoke such negative assessments? I don’t know the answer to that. I suspect that it is at least in part because we have it so good here at home (really we do!)… we take so much for granted and occasionally forget how blessed we are.

        Unfortunately when that happens, it seems that we trend towards blindly applying and judging (neither kindly nor generously) other people by our standards… often not even considering their own.

        I wish I could say we reserve subjecting these unsavory behaviors to people outside our borders… unfortunately my experience teaches me that’s not so. The story that I’ve made up is that as Americans we often act as if others being different or holding conflicting opinions is an affront or a threat to who we are and what we stand for and/or represent. In these moments, it seems we often let ourselves become blinded by our preferences and our prejudices.

        If we took the time (presuming that we have the capacity) to observe ourselves and the results our behavior evokes that’d be one thing. If we could just see how we are being whilst we’re doing what we’re doing… I’m sure that we’d do as you did in Paris “Oh! Bonjour, mademoiselle! Bonjour!” but instead, we so often appear to be in such a rush… that it’s not a great stretch for us to see how others might consider that we just don’t care… that we’re rude and that we’re arrogant.

        All that said, I’m going to hold onto the position though that it’s not that simple… as Americans we care… and we care deeply… unfortunately sometimes we just care more about ourselves than the other things we care about.

        • Hey Paul.

          Well, I am glad that you put your post back on. I believe that we absolutely CANNOT correct any kinds of perceptions or behaviors – or many any real difference in the world if we don’t shine a clear, emotionally detached, objective light on the situation.  We cannot fix a problem that we won’t acknowledge even exists.  It may not be pretty, and it may not be what we want to see.  Hey, it may not be true for me –  or for you, or for Kelly or Polly or whomever – but could it be true for a large number of people? Large enough that there lives a certain “perception” about who Americans are out there in the world that is not so positive? I believe so.  AND – I happen to agree with you on what you are saying here.

          It ALL comes down to perception, doesn’t it really?  And here’s what I keep coming back to:  Larsen’s two big communication truths:

          1.  Every single thing we do as human beings communicates SOMETHING.  Everything. Verbal, nonverbal, everything.
          2.  The meaning of any piece of communication lies only in what the receiver takes it to mean – regardless of the sender’s intention.

          And there you have it.  It doesn’t matter that I was the happiest, friendliest, most giving (thank you Polly) person who walked in those stores and shops on any given day.  If what I communicated in my face, voice, body etc, didn’t clearly convey all that happiness and friendliness – then, well, just chalk me off as another rude American.

          I just so wish we could ALL see ourselves as others see us.  Like we could have a camera floating silently and discreetly behind us tracking our every move and encounter, so that we would have the ability to watch back the “dailies” (what the director of a movie does at the end of every day of shooting.)  But even then we would be seeing ourselves through OUR eyes, wouldn’t we?  We’d look at every encounter and start rationalizing and justifying.

          “Well, HE was the problem in THAT scene! He wouldn’t help me out! I was JUSTIFIED in being rude to him!”

          “Well, in THAT scene I know I didn’t give that poor beggar any help, but hey, they would just use it on drugs anyway so what’s the point!”

          “Oh and in THAT scene, well, of COURSE I snapped at the waiter! Did you see how long it took him just to get to my table!!”

          And on it goes.  

          Solutions? Well, personally, I’m just going to try and wake up.  Try harder to be aware and make some new choices.  And you and I and others will blog about it and lovingly and passionately lay our thoughts out there and maybe, while trying to remind ourselves, we’ll remind someone else in the process.

          In the meantime, Paul, thank you again for sharing your thoughts.  As Kelly has said, I think when we wrap our comments in love (as you so surely did), and we know that our intention is to raise awareness and make better choices ourselves, then it’s all good.

          Wow, look at us.  A treatise on the state of the world.  


  5. Oh dear, if YOU caught yourself not greeting the clerk (and you’re the most happy, friendly, giving person I know) then I’m scared to observe how many times I breeze into someone’s “home” and not say bonjour!!  Here it goes!  The upside is that I should be a much nicer person by the end of the week!  Thanks!!

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