Is Rudeness Contagious?

Are people becoming increasingly rude and obnoxious as they see more of this behavior from their politicians? That’s the question many people are asking these days, especially when the president of the United States makes disturbing and obnoxious statements like “grab her by the pussy,” calls co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Mika Brzezinski “low IQ Crazy Mika,” and now adds Maxine Waters to the growing list of women he berates as having low intelligence. The list of women the misogynistic president berates for their appearance, age or intelligence is a lengthy one. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the president’s rudeness.

Does the president’s rudeness increase the rude behavior in others? According to new research, scientists ‘yes’. New research, which is published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, found that being rude or obnoxious IS contagious. According to the scientists at the University of Maryland, just one exposure to rude behavior can leave a person seeing the world through rude-colored-glasses for the rest of the day. And, that exposure doesn’t even have to be directed at a person. Just witnessing the rudeness is enough to change the way people perceive their social interactions throughout the day.

Eighty-one business professionals were exposed to video simulations of rude behavior over a period of 10 days. According to one of the study authors, Trevor Foulk, management professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, “Witnessing rudeness can activate a rudeness filter, and this activation can bias subsequent judgments.” He adds: “We call it ‘rude-colored glasses’ because the observed event changes the way people perceive their social interactions throughout the day.”

The researchers found that those people who observe or experience rudeness frequently create defense mechanisms resulting in psychological withdrawal and reduced performance.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that people who scored higher on the a test called the “core self-evaluation” assessment, had greater resistance to the effect. In other words, those who show a greater amount of kindness to themselves are less likely to view the world through rude-colored glasses.

So, it sounds like my habit of celebrating even the smallest of my successes and taking my birthday off every year are habits worth continuing. Perhaps treating ourselves kindly helps us then treat others as we wish to be treated? That sounds worthy of exploration but we’ll have to wait for more studies to prove the point. Regardless, I’m a big fan of treating ourselves and others with kindness, respect and compassion. We don’t have to agree on everything to respect our differences and show some decency.

So, how can you prevent “Rude-Colored Glasses” from tainting your world view? Obviously, there are many ways to do so, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

1) Look for things to like in people, even people who drive you nuts. Surely there are characteristics or qualities you can appreciate. Looking for the good in others may help us to treat them with greater respect.

2) Give someone a sincere compliment. Who knows what kind of day that person might be experiencing so a genuine compliment may go a long way towards bringing some light into an otherwise dark day.

3) Take some time out of your day to treat yourself kindly. That could mean a warm bath with some lavender essential oil to pick up your spirits or trading massages with a partner, or just taking some “me time” to read a good book or flip through a beautiful magazine. As the study showed, just treating ourselves with kindness can help make us more resilient to the effects of rudeness.

4) Consciously tell ourselves that rudeness doesn’t define us whenever we have experienced rudeness. I find myself doing that more and more to offset what I’ve been calling the “Trump Effect”—sorry Donald, but if you’re going to continue name-calling, insulting people and generally acting like a bully you’re going to become associated with rude and obnoxious behavior. Whenever I am outraged by something the president has said or done, I take action to stand against the nasty or abusive behavior (sign Care2 petitions, speak out against abuses, protest) and then I do a sort of emotional cleansing where I release the effects of having been exposed to the rudeness (see number 3).

5) Do something nice for a random person in your life. It’s not hard and it doesn’t need to cost anything. Just call someone you care about or take a batch of cookies to a neighbor, or simply show someone some kindness. Eight years ago I did a whole series of articles called the Kindness Revolution. The world needs kindness more than ever.

6) Be kind but be firm. We shouldn’t tolerate abuse in the name of “positive thinking” like so many people have been inclined to do. We can speak out and take a stand while still being kind. After all, being kind doesn’t mean being an emotional ostrich, sticking our heads in the proverbial sand as a way to avoid negativity altogether. We all need to do our part to create a kinder, gentler, more compassionate world and that involves action.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, co-founder of BestPlaceinCanada, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include the vegan cookbook: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life.



Lesa D
Lesa Dabout a month ago

& epidemic!

thank you again Michelle...

Winn Adams
Winn Adamsabout a month ago


Catrin S
Catrin S1 months ago

Everyone seems to be on edge and stressed these days, too much pressure to fit in, be a certain way, keep up with other peoples standard of living. A pressure cooker waiting to explode.

PJ C1 months ago

I don't believe it's contagious as much as permission for people who are inherently rude/violent. If you look at the upswing in racism, misogyny, et al since Trump was elected you can easily see that having him and his minions has set a tone that's spilling outside of the US borders. "The pack" seems all to pleased to participate in the lowest common denominator when they think it is safe to do so.

Louise R
Louise R1 months ago

thank you

Leo C
Leo Custer1 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Paulo R
Paulo R1 months ago


Lesa D
Lesa D1 months ago

thank you Michelle...

Leo C
Leo Custer2 months ago

Thank you for posting!

Kelsey S
Kelsey S2 months ago