CwS: How to turn rudeness into kindness

[1 minute read] (ESL learners – click on the bolded words to see explanations and notes. Try the exercise at the bottom after! πŸ™‚ )

What does CwS mean? It stands for Conversations with Students. This means this post is based on a thoughtful discussion I had with one of my incredible students as part of an English lesson with them.

The other day, I did a lesson on the topic of anger and emotions with a student.

We were talking about what sorts of things can spark annoyance, frustration, or anger for different people.

And she told me a fascinating story.

It was an example of when a stranger’s rudeness annoyed her. But what fascinated me about it is how her boyfriend instantly calmed this stranger down and even made him change his tune to greater calm and kindness.

Basically, what happened was this.

She and her boyfriend were on a bus. At one stop, her boyfriend had to momentarily step off the bus, then get back on. As he was getting off the bus, he inadvertently bumped into a large, grumpy man who was standing in the aisle β€” or so he assumes, as the man snapped “F*** you!” after him.

His girlfriend β€” my student β€” saw this interaction, and ticked off, snapped back at the man.

A moment later, her boyfriend stepped back onto the bus, having heard the whole exchange.

Now, I can imagine it would be perhaps instinctive, and justifiable for many people to give this man an angry glare, or retort something back to him.

But what her boyfriend did was politely and kindly apologize to the man for bothering him as he was stepping off the bus.

The man was taken aback, and grumbled an apology of his own. He had visibly calmed down, and seemed a bit embarrassed about his earlier outburst.

This whole interaction took just a few seconds, but I believe it could be a powerful lesson for life. This young man had immense maturity to not take the man’s insult personally, and maintain his own sense of integrity rather than getting sucked into being rude back β€” which is what I think many of us might do, and understandably so.

The man was probably expecting him to snap back at him, which would just fuel his upset mood and make him feel more justified in being angry. But when his anger was returned to him as kindness, he probably realized the stark contrast between what he had sent out into the world, and what he could be sending out instead.

The world already has enough rudeness and cruelty. Why not add more love to it instead?

A lot more could be said about this topic, but in the interest of keeping these posts concise, I’ll leave it here.

Do you have any more thoughts or observations to add? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

ESL Notes (17 words / expressions)

Definitions written with reference to Cambridge Dictionary

Spark: cause. (Back to the text)

Fascinating / fascinated: Notice the difference in ending between “fascinating”, describing something that causes an emotion, and “fascinated”, the past tense verb form of the same word. We also have the word “fascinated” as an adjective, describing the emotion we feel. If a book is fascinating, we feel fascinated by it, or we can say that the book fascinates us. Many people confuse these endings, so it could be worth noticing and reviewing this if you struggle with it too. (Back to the text)

Change his tune: start behaving in a different way. (Back to the text)

Inadvertently: not on purpose; in a way that is not intentional. (Back to the text)

Grumpy: in a bad mood. (Back to the text)

Snap: say something in an angry way. (Back to the text)

Ticked off: annoyed. (Back to the text)

Exchange: a short conversation or argument. (Back to the text)

Glare: an angry look. (Back to the text)

Retort: to answer in an angry way. Alternatively, it can also mean to answer in a funny way, but the context makes it clear which one it is. (Back to the text)

Taken aback: surprised. (Back to the text)

Grumble: to say something in an annoyed way, and usually a low volume. (Back to the text)

Outburst: a sudden expression of anger or other intense emotion. (Back to the text)

Get sucked into: If you get sucked into something, it means that something caused you to be involved in an unpleasant situation or activity. In this case, to be involved in acting rude. (Back to the text)

Fuel: to give more energy to something, to make it continue. (Back to the text)

Stark: obvious, extreme. (Back to the text)

In the interest of: to achieve a particular goal. I could also say “in order to keep this post concise” or “so that I can keep this post concise”. (Back to the text)


Want to start using these words and make sure you don’t forget them? Try this exercise! Think about these questions (discuss them with someone) or write down your answers, using the word or expression in your discussion or answer.

  • Has any event in your city or country sparked massive protests or demonstrations?
  • Talk about something that fascinates you. Try to use all forms of the verb: fascinating, fascinated (adjective), to fascinate (verb).
  • Have you ever made a suggestion to someone that they first didn’t like, but then they changed their tune? (maybe it was a movie to watch with a friend, a vacation with a partner, a business proposal, etc.) What made them change their tune?
  • Have you ever inadvertently deleted an important file, message, or photo?
  • How often do you tend to feel grumpy? What do you think causes it?
  • If someone snaps at you, how do you tend to react?
  • Can you easily tell if a friend or family member is ticked off?
  • Have you ever overheard an interesting exchange when you were passing someone on the street, or traveling on public transportation?
  • What would you think if you walk into a party, and you notice someone you don’t know glaring at you?
  • Have you ever badly mispronounced someone’s name? Did they retort back, correcting your pronunciation?
  • Have you ever received a gift that took you aback? (because it was a strange gift, or something you didn’t think the person would think to give you?)
  • When you were in school, did the students grumble when the teacher announced a test, or assigned homework?
  • Have you ever witnessed an outburst of a colleague or client during a meeting or professional situation?
  • Have you ever gotten sucked into an argument or a discussion you really didn’t want to be a part of?
  • What do you think fuels envy, or resentment, or happiness? (or another emotion of your choice)
  • Is there a stark contrast between two parts of your city? For example, a part that looks clean, luxurious and rich, and a part that looks run-down, dirty, and poor?
  • Is there something you don’t like doing, but do anyways in the interest of staying healthy?

Feel free to try writing some more sentences, or a text, of your own to practice some more.

Thank you for reading! These ESL notes, links and exercises each take several hours to make, so if you found this useful, the kindest thing you can do is to like the post, leave a comment, or share with anyone who needs it. Have questions about any other words? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to reply!

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