The other day a friend of mine was leaving a restaurant when a young woman approached her and asked for directions to a business that she said was meant to be nearby. My friend had never heard of the place, so she said, “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t know where it is.” She then started to suggest that the woman try asking someone who worked at the restaurant, as they would likely be more familiar with the area. But the woman, apparently angry or frustrated that she wasn’t getting the answer she wanted, rudely rolled her eyes, waved her off, and stormed down the street.
I’m sure the woman was upset because she was lost and late, but that’s no excuse for being rude and uncivil to someone who was trying to help her. My friend may not have been able to give her directions, but she did do her best to help. All the woman had to do was follow her suggestion and ask inside the restaurant, or simply say, “Thanks anyways” and move on.
This reminds me of an encounter I once had in which a man approached me on the street and asked if I had a lighter. I don’t carry one, so I told him, in an apologetic tone, “Sorry, I don’t have one.” He flashed an ugly sneer at me and then cursed under his breath before stomping off. One minute he was asking a favor, the next he was insulting me. Nice, huh?
The next time you are asking for help, practice some patience and civility. Being in a rush or getting a negative response is no excuse for being rude to someone who is taking time out of their day to listen to you. Also, if you want to ask a stranger a question and they are engaged in conversation, don’t interrupt. Ask someone else, or wait for a pause and kindly say, “excuse me” or “sorry to bother you.” And avoid tapping people on the shoulder—most of us are wary of being touched by a stranger and will feel uncomfortable or threatened.