We all know people like this: they always – very enthusiastically – eat food we bring to the office to share but never reciprocate. They RSVP yes to an event but may not show up and don’t bother to call and give explanation. You may not get thank-you cards for the wedding/baby/housewarming gift you gave them because they “just don’t get around” to sending them.
People who behave like this have become so commonplace these days that they have earned a name in my book: the Aloof Goofs – AG for short. We all look out for Number One; AGs do to the point of sheer self-absorption.
Why the recent AG boom? I say technology is partially to blame. We live in a world today where we don’t really need to communicate with other humans as much as we use to. For example, we’re much more likely to shoot an e-mail or a text message to someone, instead of picking up the phone or walking down the hall to someone’s office. If we need to make inquiries on our accounts, we can do it by a computerized menu when we call in. The telephony menu actually gives us options as to whether or not we want to speak to a live person. And some people are literally tethered to their cell phones in public and are simply less available to interact. Technology is making robots out of us instead of us making robots; thus the warmth that makes us human can be at best lukewarm these days.
Another reason for the AG epidemic in this country is that America is out of practice with using good manners towards one another. For instance, my grandmother was a child in The Great Depression. She and many other octogenarians tend to be generous and thoughtful souls. Because monetary or tangible gifts and pleasures were such a rarity in The Depression, good deeds were pretty much all they had to give. That value is ingrained in that generation. The Baby Boomers, which are their children, were taught the same values. Things started to go south with my generation, a.k.a. Generation X, or the Me Generation. By then, playing with big, shiny toys and video games and watching cable TV replaced relationship-building activities, like helping a friend with laundry or shoveling a neighbor’s snowy driveway. America was once known for its generosity and empathy for the human plight and it is a shame we are losing sight of that.
What’s the big deal, you may ask? When it comes to Aloof Goofs, why can’t we live and let live? AG behavior has consequences. A friend of mine told me about how floored she was when someone in her life, who is a practicing AG, called her in the wee hours of the morning. He needed a ride because his car had broken down. She did not think twice about telling him no. A relative of mine works in Human Resources and told me someone else in our family who never calls her “finally found her phone number” and was in dire need of employment. My relative decided to help but not with the best efforts. In short, these two examples demonstrate that when we withdraw from the generosity bank too often but do not make deposits, we will eventually have an overdraft – and emotional overdrafts are much harder to resolve than financial ones.
The most alarming damage in practicing Aloof Goof behavior can currently be seen in our children. Higher numbers of children are being expelled from kindergarten or even nursery school for displaying some of these behaviors. We are teaching them that selfishness and plain disregard for courtesy is the norm.
As we all know, bad habits can be reformed. The most important practice to eradicate Aloof Goof behavior is making a concerted effort to connect with others whenever possible. Give the e-mail and text messaging a rest and send an “un-birthday” card via snail mail to someone; this is a greeting card sent for no reason, no special occasion other than you appreciate the person. Adopting our grandparents’ attitude is another surefire winner: look for ways to bring pleasure to other people. Doing some spring cleaning? Give people you know first choice on that file cabinet you were planning to put in a yard sale or the clothes and appliances you were going to give to charity. Leave communal places and things we use in better condition than we found them. Having this mind-set will lead to AG standing for All Good.
Are you an Aloof Goof?
- Do you habitually contact people only when you need a favor?
- Can you remember the last time you did a good deed for someone without being asked?
- Do you take in more thoughtful gestures and material things from people than you give?
- Can you “never find time” to send thank-you notes in situations when it is proper etiquette to do so?
Sean C. Wright is the author of the short stories Hazel Hogan and Devil Does Dallas. She is also an editor. For more information about her writing skills and how she can assist you with yours–business or consumer–visit https://seanarchy.wordpress.com.