Boorish behavior can be trying

Nate Owens/Staff
Staff illustration
What behavior do you find most offensive?
Twerps talking on a cell phone or talking with friends through a movie

Idiots holding loud, very personal cell phone conversations at the store checkout line

Obscenity-spewing cell phone blabbers anywhere in public

Unruly children at a restaurant

Boors who talk through a music or live stage performance

Loud music from a neighboring car at the gas station or at a red light

Changing a diaper in public

Breast-feeding in public

Other

Sure, you've all seen or heard it, and probably been affected by it. The guy talking loudly in the movies. The woman holding a long cell-phone conversation in a theater or other improper setting. The rowdy, disruptive child screaming and running rampant in a restaurant.

There are many such intrusions every day into your personal space, but you can take steps to restore your bubble. Most of the time, you can get relief by politely telling the offenders that their behavior is intrusive, according to Patrick Wanis, a human behavior and relationship expert and a contributor to Fox News and other media outlets.

Here are some common situations, and some tips on how to cope:

Noise in public

While dining out, Monte Collier, of North Augusta, is grossed out and loses his appetite "right when I'm about to eat the good part" when people at a nearby table blow their noses.

Unruly children in restaurants also burn him up.

"People won't control their kids. They'll just be running all over the place," he said. "I was eating at a Red Lobster once, and this kid kept acting up. All his mom did was threaten him with timeout; he was crying for 10 minutes. That's aggravating when I'm trying to enjoy my meal."

Two approaches can be taken to handle this, Mr. Wanis said: Talk to the parents or to the waiter.

"Try to relate to the parents, saying something like, 'Children sure do have a lot of energy, don't they? I wonder what it would take for them to calm down a little?'

"It's not what you say; it's how you say it. I know you'll feel frustrated, but this is a very sensitive topic. There's no easy answer. Some parents freak out about their children - be prepared for that."

Sometimes it's easier to have the waiter handle the situation, he said.

Movie chatter

People talking in movie theaters annoy Derek Character, but he does not go ballistic in handling the situation, he said.

"If I'm in a movie and people are talking, I'll turn around and tell them to be quiet,'' he said. ''You just nicely say, 'Hey, I'm trying to watch the movie; can you hold it down a bit?' I'm not going to miss out on my movie."

Mr. Character, who was visiting from Memphis, Tenn., said mildly admonishing the offenders is the best approach because many people are unaware of their behavior.

"There's some rude people, but I think a lot of it is that they don't think," he said. "It's like when people are talking loud on their cell phones - they don't realize it. I think the majority of people don't realize what they're doing because they're selfish or not thinking of others, but when you bring it to their attention, they say, 'Oh, I didn't realize that.'"

Mr. Wanis agreed that offenders might not realize what's happening, but sometimes they just want attention, he said; politely asking them to quiet down is the best approach.

"What's more important than what you say is your tone of voice. Try to say it in a soft, gentle manner, asking a question," he said. "Don't attack the person, then you'll create an argument because the person will be embarrassed already."

After the second or third request, be stern, he said, and if the chatter continues, have an attendant handle it.

Cell-phone chatter

Edgefield, S.C., resident Crystal Simpkins hates it when people use cell phones in inappropriate times and places and "have the nerve to be shopping and have their phone on speaker talking to someone using vulgar language," she said.

She especially doesn't like when she's in line at a checkout counter in a store behind someone who is so wrapped up in a phone conversation that she's not paying attention when the cashier is ready to conduct business.

"It's annoying. When in public, I feel people should use their cell phones when they're needed to be used, not just for pleasure. But when you're in any store in line, you should focus on what you're doing," said Mrs. Simpkins, 26. "It's holding me up, especially when I'm in a rush. And they'll look at you and act as if nothing is wrong."

Mr. Wanis said this relates to the Me Generation. What can be done here is to politely make the person aware that the clerk is ready or let the clerk handle it.

Tune it out

Loud music coming from a car at a stop light is something people should not get bent out of shape about, Mr. Wanis said.

"When people are playing their music so loud, they're saying, 'Look at me.' They're trying to prove something to you, trying to get noticed," he said. "I just put up my window.

"You're at the light for a minute at most. Be patient; you don't want to create a situation. So if there's a way you can avoid any sort of confrontation, I'd simply put the window up and let it go."

Changing a baby's diaper in public is sometimes unavoidable, but it should be done in a private area, he said. He feels there is nothing wrong with breast-feeding in public so long as the feeding is covered up with a blanket,

"Try and make whatever you do as private as possible,'" he said, "so it's as least offensive as possible."

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.

WHY SO OBNOXIOUS?

Patrick Wanis, a human behavior and relationship expert and a contributor to Fox News and other media outlets, gives his views on rude behavior:

What is personal space? The space where you feel comfortable, usually about a 3-foot distance around you. This also relates to auditory space, the few feet around you where you would like it to be relatively quiet in order to have a conversation.

Who's rude? The Me Generation - people who are self-absorbed and inconsiderate of their surroundings and who want to take more than give.

Who's at fault? Younger people are generally the perpetrators of this behavior, but it's being reinforced by parents who are not instilling in their children the concept of caring about other people and giving back.

What can be done? A simple return to morals, values and ethics, including respect for self and others.

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