Communication Tip:

Originally written by Kerry for tutorial reference material, rewritten for Communication Weekly (now out of business).

What to say to a rude cell phone user
Say nothing. It's a setup. You are being goaded into pointing out their inconsiderateness so they can vent some of their pent-up anger. It's unlikely that you have the verbal communication skills to pull off a mutually satisfying conversation with them, one that will effect a positive change.

Theirs is a covert abusive communication rooted in a childhood incomplete. They are in fact addicted to abuse; they need their daily fix. If they can hook you into criticizing them then their reactionary upset gives them something to do other than experience the pain underneath their disregard for your serenity.

Keep in mind that all cell phone users have heard or read the articles—that others find it distracting, if not irritating, to have to listen to another's cell phone conversation. It's not as though they are "accidentally" being rude. They make this choice consciously, much like a barking dog owner does. They operate from a place of contempt and disregard for the space of others.

It could be that they are reminding you about space. 50% of the distance between you and another is your space, if another can hear your TV, etc. then you have intruded upon their space; in other words, who would say that you're intruding into their space?
Is there an alternative? Is there something you can do besides stuffing your upset thereby non-verbally empowering them to do it to another? The answer is yes.
After reading this article you’ll now have another choice. You can hand them a copy of this tip. It's called service. It will serve them.

Like a driver who purposefully thwarts others by going less than the speed limit an inconsiderate cell phone user has yet to discover the correlation between their manners and the results they are producing in life and relationships. What they don’t know is that they are looking for someone who won't buy into their act, someone who will support them in getting to the source of their anger.
Here are two possibilities that could come from your service:

  1. They will read this tip and have a visceral experience of embarrassment and uncomfortableness. They will know that their unconscious cry for help got gotten, and, at some level. they will respect the courage it took for you to deliver this communication—knowing that you risked their wrath. Your communication will impact them for life. The most considerate thing they could do is to not say anything; at some level they know that an apology will not feel good to you.

  2. They will read this tip and it will trigger upset, anger, or even rage. In other words, if the person is abusing others (if he/she needs to be caught for abuse in their personal relationship), they will have no choice other than to react. Like a puppet, they will be driven to abuse you even more, perhaps by handing this tip back to you with attitudinal posturing or stink-eye, or even confront you verbally. If you are steadfast in your commitment to service, letting them vent and walk away from you still upset, you having verbally communicated nothing. Later at home they will be left with an experience of what THEY did, rather than what you did or said. As with all communications, whatever they say is what you need to hear for your growth.

When you serve you are served.

Feel free to make copies of this tip.

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Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 12/22/16)


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