Are People Getting Ruder? Is it a sign of the times?

Andrew Plath, Wildlight Photography
Photo Credit: Andrew Plath, Wildlight Photography

Today I got a phone call from a prospective client. I began with a sentence or two of small talk and then responded to his question of rates. I answered that in order to answer his question, I would need to know more about him since we have several packages. I asked him to tell me about his present position and his goals. I have used that technique for a long time and it usually works very well. His answer startled me! He said, “You haven’t answered my question and if this is indicative of your work, then I can’t work with you” … and then hung up after less than 3 minutes on the line.


I live in the Midwest, this was a local call. I know other résumé writers have had clients that started out difficult but in 25 years, I have never had it happen to me. I usually end my rate quote with “does this fit your budget?” Though sometimes I have to work harder to get someone to trust me, the most common comment when I have finished a project is, “I am so glad I came, I feel so relieved.” I don’t even have a clue as to what field my caller was in because he never told me anything nor did he ask any question other than rate. Résumés are not a one size fits all kind of purchase. My prices range from student rates to executive rates and I have multiple rates in the middle to meet every level of a person’s career. I usually listen to the person’s story and try to determine whether there are additional issues that would affect his career, such as: was he recently laid off or is he a manager in a field that doesn’t pay well. A manager of a major manufacturing plant has different résumé needs than someone in retail management. I want to be fair. But this caller never gave me a chance. He challenged my abilities and hung up.



I debated for a bit after the call and decided to check reverse call and see if I could figure who called. Then I called back. I got voice mail and just left a message that said, “Hi, this is Julie. Someone called from this number and if you still need help, I would be happy to help you.” I didn’t and don’t expect I will hear back but you never know.

But it seems like people experience rudeness from veritable strangers frequently. Last night, I was “talking” to Kim Woodbridge of (Anti) Social Development blog ( and she had just had a commenter on her blog that was very rude and she was having trouble responding to him. She was bothered by his responses. Blog writers open themselves up to responses that may surprise them. As we communicate more and more with strangers, either over the phone or by e-mail or in blogs or blog comments or by the host of social media tools that seem to be growing every day, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, do we need to be even more vigilant that we are not offending others?

When I teach classes on résumés and other career management tools, we discuss how you need to always be careful not to burn bridges. As I am teaching networking, I remind people that they need to nurture their network and keep doors open. I was surprised by my caller’s response and a little hurt, but had he called back, I would have still given him the same level of customer service and assistance that my clients have learned to depend upon.

How about you? Are you rude ever? Are you rude back? Or do you remain ever vigilant to make sure than you don’t offend others. Let’s talk!



16 Responses to “Are People Getting Ruder? Is it a sign of the times?”

  1. 1 louisevona November 7, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    I try to be as polite as possible to people. As a young person, I want to show people who are my senior that “our generation” isn’t just made up of hooligans and hoodlums who run their mouths off at every chance. Whether it means saying thank you to someone holding the door or making small-talk with cashiers, I do my best to be polite.

  2. 2 Julie Walraven November 7, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    @louisevona Thank you, me too. I’ve always tried to be positive in all situations. Not that I am perfect by any means but I try not to be mean. As the parent of two 21 and 22 year old young men, I have had many times to be amazed when they show that side of politeness. I think there are some very nice people in “your generation.”

    The other side of me is Wausau Whitewater and I have had the priviledge of working with many young athletes in the paddling community for the past 11 years who are exceptionally polite and appreciative.

  3. 3 kwbridge November 7, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    Hi Julie,

    I’m not sure that people are getting ruder but with the Internet and all of the exposure that we have to people from all over the opportunities to experience rudeness increase. I also think that as we get older we define ourselves more by our own generation and think the younger generation is ruder. But I don’t think this is necessarily true – being a jerk is independent of generation.

    I think it also depends on where you live. I’ve found people to be friendlier and more polite in small towns and in certain parts of the country, such as the Midwest. Since I live in Philadelphia, not exactly the friendliest place, I don’t think that caller would have surprised me as much as it did you.

    I wasn’t really upset by the commenter that you referred to. He obviously had a point to prove. I just didn’t know how to keep up with him. A couple of friends jumped in and did a pretty good job defending me. I do find it a little unusual, however, to have someone be like that the one and only time they ever comment on my site.

    And honestly, as you know I’m going through some personal issues. In a strange way I welcomed the ridiculous controversy because it was distracting me from the important stuff that is going on in my life right now.

    I try to be kind and polite to people. I think the times I’ve been rude is when something else is going on with me. When people are unpleasant I tell myself that maybe they’re going through a divorce, or their kid is getting in trouble, or someone passed away. It is not unusual for people to transfer their hurt to the wrong person.

    I think that’s what happened to you. That guy is probably going through a financial crisis, which is why he only asked about rates, and became extremely defensive when you asked more about him. It wasn’t you, Julie. He just took his problems out on you.

    Ok – I didn’t mean to write a novel here. Thanks for the mention and for the great article! We’ve both found inspiration recently from negative experiences so at least it’s giving us something to write about 🙂

  4. 4 arizonabrian November 7, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    It’s a shame that person was really rude on the phone. I have to agree with kwbridge. Since the development of the internet and social media tools, I am more aware of the rudeness of people.

    The direct reason for this is because now there are more opportunities and places for people to complain about things. I see it happening all the time on Twitter and Facebook. People complain, complain, complain. I wonder what % of Twitter posts are negative?

  5. 5 Julie Walraven November 7, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    Thanks, Kim!

    The first thing I did with my caller after he hung up was check the phone number. I knew it was local and that’s why it surprised me more. My colleagues have mentioned people who behave that way or worse but they are usually from other parts of the country. I am not saying that people aren’t rude here too, they can be. But my experience is that the people who call me have been incredibly nice and a joy to work with. I think I am spoiled. I have worked with literally thousands of people over the years and most of them in person since that’s how I work with 85% right now and they have been terrific. Long distance / virtual clients have been the same, though I have to work harder to build credibility with someone who is not going to be coming to my office.

    I did read the comments on your blog today as I was writing the post and I could see that you had definitely worked through that one.

    In working on this post, I worked through my own issue. I can tell though that this morning, I had to work hard to change my attitude. I was incredibly sad. My goal is to help people and this person never let me try. I understand that I am an unknown and he might have had many reasons of his own that made him behave that way but I could have helped him solve one of his problems and the fee probably would have been less than he initially thought. My industry has worked hard to prove that resume writers are a dedicated group of people who have worked hard to build their knowledge base of multiple careers and ways to market each individual effectively. Unfortunately, there are always people who are leary of services that they have not used before.

    Kim, I wish you blessings and hope you enjoy the weekend with your daughter!

  6. 6 Julie Walraven November 8, 2008 at 12:01 am

    @arizonabrian Thanks, I didn’t mention the election in my post but if you take your comments and relate them to the recent advertising for the election, you can see that we are bombarded with people who are attacking each other. When our nation’s prospective leaders are attacking each other, how can we expect the average citizen, “Joe, the Plumber” if you will, to be any different.

    I think all we as individuals can do is resolve to be an example to the people around us. In stores, online, wherever we are, we need to be an example of positive people.

    Thank you again. Maybe we should have a “National I will not complain today” Day… anyone want to join me? I am sure I would have to work hard to not complain about anything.

  7. 7 Viola (velreno) Walker November 8, 2008 at 2:33 am

    Interesting. I was just reading some information regarding twitter and one of the things it stated is that it is popular because you have to get to the important information in 140 characters. That requires one to be very brief. Also, this is common with text messaging on cell phones too. Brief. Abbreviated. To the Point.

    Everything we learned in school is quickly being replaced with technology’s sense of priorities. I am constantly shocked at the lack of writing, spelling, and grammer skills that I see anymore. But even more so, I am shocked at how my own brain is being reprogrammed by all this new technology and how easy it is to forget the rules of grammer and speech.

    What the mad did was rude. No doubt. No question. But, I see it as more a change of values in our society. So many things have changed. Long gone behind us are the days of gallantry, grace and many of the social graces that were once expected of every man and woman. And not all of our changes are for the good.

  8. 8 Julie Walraven November 8, 2008 at 2:44 am

    @Viola Walker (velreno) Thanks for the comment. In many ways you are right that technology does force you to be brief in many settings such as Twitter. For me though, my experiment with Twitter has made me realize that there are many words that I can cut out and say the same thing.

    I have seen people being very genuine and even gallant in social media settings. I think that the personalities of the persons often come through.

    I think we need, though, to work on finding ways of integrating politeness and manners in our interactions in technology and media. The next generation is watching for us to set the example.

  9. 9 Gayle Howard November 8, 2008 at 7:17 am

    I do think people are getting ruder, I’ve certainly thought so for many years. Having said that, I think in a lot of cases, people are just sick and tired of being messed around by what is passing for a “service culture” these days. Could it be that everyone your would-be client had called, had tried to waltz him around with a long and involved sales spiel when he was just purely price hunting? Maybe he was bamboozled and tired of dancing around? Maybe he was calling for a friend and didn’t want the angst? Who knows what personal stuff people bring to the table! When I’m challenged in such a way with a price shopper, I’m equally as frank. “How much do you charge?” is their first and only question of interest. I simply say, “Well it depends on what you’re after, but career marketing programs start at $XXX and go right up to $XXXX depending on the services that make up the program. They now have their answer. If I’m in the ballpark with what they can afford, they’ll ask more and tell me about their situation. If they were expecting it was going to be $25 then we were never going to do business and they would have just been subjected to a long spiel for nothing. So my method is give people a range which will either start them talking, or end the conversation. Question asked, question answered!

  10. 10 Julie Walraven November 8, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Thanks, Gayle! Your strategy is one I have used with clients for years successfully and I learned it from people like yourself and other of our colleagues. I would have been happy to give a range if he had let me but the conversation was over in 2 minutes and very abuptly.

    My goal is to assist as many people as possible in achieving success and I know that is your goal too. Since you and I both come from such an honest and ethical viewpoint, I get frustrated when someone denies me the opportunity to help them.

    Thanks for stopping by to comment! Even after 25 years in the business, I am finding that there are many things I am learning from your book, PS, You’re A Resume Expert! Thanks for sending it to me!

  11. 11 Amybeth November 11, 2008 at 12:14 am

    Hi Julie,

    I just left a comment over on the PR Open Mic site which has cited your post as well. As a staffing researcher, I constantly see rudeness from professionals in all industries toward recruiters on social media. Now, a lot of it I grant is warranted because there are lots of recruiters who are using these tools simply to spam prospective candidates (the high volume approach). But when it’s pretty obvious that someone has taken the time to learn a little about a person before reaching out to them, the least in courtesy that could be returned is a thoughtful “Thanks but I’m happy where I’m at right now” response.

    I’ve actually had a couple of folks who’ve inserted their foot into their mouth by jumping to conclusions too quickly about my intentions. They assume I work for a search firm (without reading my signature line) and arrogantly state that they only work with principles, or say “take me off your spam list” without even reading what I’ve written.

    Rudeness goes both ways I think. It’s rude to spam people with generic boilerplate crap. But it’s also rude to respond in such a manner to someone who has taken the time to do a little bit of info gathering before reaching out. Rule of thumb for me is this: be nice to everyone because that opportunity or pitch that doesn’t look interesting to you now might just end up being your bread and butter down the road.

  12. 12 Julie Walraven November 11, 2008 at 12:59 am

    Thanks for the heads up on the other site, Amybeth. Brian let me know about his post via pingback and I am amazed that my post generated so much interest. It was an opportunity to make lemonade. I was upset with my caller for not letting me share any real information about my career management & resume services. I have no problem if someone chooses not to go with me, but he called me, and then didn’t give me a chance to explain.

    There’s a thousand possible explanations and none of them matter anymore because my venting in the blog generated more positive and creative responses than I could have hoped when I wrote it. Take lemons and make lemonade!

  13. 13 arizonabrian November 11, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Hi Julie,

    People are definitely siding with you when it comes to others getting ruder. I just wanted to let you know I did report my blog post on PR Open Mic ( It’s a site for PR pro’s, educators, and students.


  14. 14 arizonabrian November 11, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Hi Julie,

    I tried posting a comment earlier, but I think I was having computer problems. You should check out PR Open Mic. I reported my blog post there and a few people have commented. Thanks for the idea, and by no means was I trying to steal your thoughts – you just inspired me.

  1. 1 Social Rudeness: It’s happening « Everyday PR Trackback on November 10, 2008 at 8:17 pm
  2. 2 Social Rudeness: It's happening | The PR Practitioner Trackback on November 15, 2008 at 11:32 pm

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