When Is Rude Too Rude?

Veteran Broadway star Patti LuPone, the original Evita, is fed up.

During last Wednesday’s evening performance of Shows for Days, a play in which LuPone is starring at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center Theater, LuPone walks offstage and approaches a woman sitting in the second row. The woman has been texting for minutes at a time throughout the play’s first act. Without breaking character or saying a word, LuPone takes the cellphone from the woman. Walks off.

The audience gasps. Applause erupts.

When is enough enough?

This audience member’s conduct is, of course, standard behavior in most business meetings. We sit in our chair, beam a smile, feign interest while our hands are under the table, feverishly monitoring our email stream, sending messages.

I know how compelling this impulse is within myself.

We have convinced ourselves that nobody notices. That it doesn’t bother anyone. Doesn’t get in the way.

Institutionalized rudeness.

In a one-on-one conversation, ask for permission to send a text or check a message before you do so. If you think it’s too rude to ask for permission, it’s too rude to commit the act.

Don’t do it.

In a meeting, physically remove yourself from the room. Complete your texting and email obligations. Return. If you think it’s too rude to leave the meeting, it’s too rude to do it during the meeting. Because you’re still leaving the meeting.

Rudeness tends to rise to new heights in a virtual meeting. Already physically removed. We shop on-line during our meeting. Answer personal emails. Do the laundry. Peruse our favorite magazine. Prepare a meal.

Nobody notices. Rudeness institutionalized.

Impulse control is a leadership skill. And I am pretty sure you don’t wanna be rude.

If the behavior annoys you in others, it will assuredly annoy others when you do it.

Be a role model and elevate your conversations. Practice impulse control.

And please do not be rude to Patti LuPone.