Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

App will anonymously tell bullies, boors and blowhards the error of their ways

App's developer based in Winnipeg

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Boring someone to death isn't a crime. Nor are answering your cellphone during dinner, chronic lateness, blaming others for your mistakes, swearing like a sailor, gossiping and burping in public.

What these behaviours are, at least by polite-society standards, are ill-mannered, inconsiderate and annoying.

Who hasn't fantasized about walking up to the office blowhard, the lunchroom slob, or a socially clueless co-worker, getting in their face and declaring, "You're so rude!"

Well, thanks to Winnipeg-based Civility Experts Worldwide, there's now an app for that.

Free to download from iTunes, the You're So Rude app allows users to send a relatively gentle and anonymous message to the email of someone who has committed any of a long list of disrespectful behaviours and social faux pas.

Like the website (www.youresorudeapp.com) says, rather than engage in potentially messy or angry conversations, fire up your smartphone or tablet and "Get the Etiquette Patrol to do the talking for you."

It might sound like another example of people hiding behind technology instead of communicating openly, or even a form of cyber-bullying, but the intention is more about raising awareness than pointing fingers, says the app's creator.

"The app is designed to be as constructive as possible. The messages aren't overly aggressive and there's no angry tone involved," says Lew Bayer, president of Civility Experts Worldwide, which has 34 affiliate offices in 12 countries.

"Also, our research shows that only one in four people will actually tell someone they're being disrespectful or inappropriate," she says, "and most of the time, that conversation happens when the recipient of the rudeness has had enough or is angry and so what should be a respectful communication turns into a conflict with hurt feelings and mistrust."

Users can choose from a drop-down list of intros designed to soften the sting. For instance, if you wanted to let someone know they have poor hygiene, or are acting like a victim, you could preface the message with "We don't want to hurt your feelings but you should know that..." or "Your mother would want us to let you know that..."

In the past four years leading up to the development of the app, Bayer says, Civility Experts offered the same service through its website for $1 per message. The Etiquette Patrol manually issued around 400 of them each month, she says.

While the app features a long list of rude behaviours, Bayer sends the same 40 or 50 complaints seem to resurface again and again. The top three include being ignored by bosses or co-workers -- or someone whose partial attention is with their smartphone or computer -- foul language and lateness.

"Ever since I started teaching etiquette 15 years ago, lateness or disrespect for time have been at the top of every list we've ever done," Bayer says.

Rudeness is on the rise, especially in workplaces, she says, citing a Harvard Business Review study that polled thousands of workers over the past 14 years and found 98 per cent of them had experienced uncivil behaviour. In 2011, half of them said they were treated rudely at least once a week.

Bayer concedes that many people may not be aware they're committing a social faux pas or being inappropriate. That's why there are other drop-down menus on the app -- which is located in the educational category on iTunes -- that describe the result of the behaviour ("can damage your reputation"), offer a suggestion ("please consider changing your behaviour") and offer the recipient a "gift" -- etiquette e-books, tips, coupons for civility training courses, etc.

Incidentally, the Etiquette Patrol isn't strictly about outing bad behaviour. The "rude" app has a "polite" function where users can send messages -- same format -- to recognize individuals for their everyday acts of civility.

For more information, go to www.youresorudeapp.com or www.civilityexperts.com.

carolin.vesely@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 16, 2013 C1

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