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James Corden’s ‘ungracious’ behaviour tells us something about him

He would do well to remember The Waiter Rule

Victoria Richards
Tuesday 25 October 2022 11:50 BST
NYC Restaurant Owner Forgives ‘Abusive’ James Corden After Apology

James Corden – who had been allegedly banned from a New York restaurant, Balthazar, for treating staff “poorly” – has now admitted that he made a “rude, rude comment” to one of its waiters. This comes after Corden previously stated that he had done “nothing wrong”.

Speaking on his CBS show on Monday night, he said: ​​“The truth is I have made a rude, rude comment. And it was wrong. It was an unnecessary comment, it was ungracious to the server.”

Balthazar’s owner, Keith McNally, rescinded his ban after receiving a private “profuse” apology from the comedian and host of The Late Late Show. But let’s pause for a moment, before we lay the matter completely to rest.

Yes, the owner has since said he “believes in second chances”, but whatever the truth of this particular matter, it’s worth looking at what we can learn about human behaviour more generally.

Whenever any of us are short-tempered or snappy, it is right that we must apologise. And when we are witness to rudeness from fellow diners, we shouldn’t discount the possible reasons for anyone’s less-than-savoury behaviour: perhaps that person had a bad day; perhaps they heard some bad news preceding these individual incidents and weren’t feeling themselves. Perhaps the person who was rude went home afterwards and kicked themselves for the way they acted; spent a sleepless night ruminating and regretful and pledging to always #BeKind. Or perhaps – and here’s a counter view – we shouldn’t let those who are rude off too lightly.

James Corden – and any of us who find ourselves being ill-mannered towards those in service roles – would do well to remember The Waiter Rule. It is a simple philosophy, an adage (and if you Google it, you’ll find it attributed to numerous sources ranging from the author Dave Barry, to Raytheon CEO William H Swanson). It’s simple, but it’s important. To me, and to my colleagues who have also taken against basic rudeness, it is a rule of thumb; a way of life.

It goes like this: we should pay close attention to the way people treat those who serve them – cleaners, waiters, porters, receptionists, delivery drivers. It tells you an awful lot about what kind of person they are.

And don’t just take my word for it – I spoke to a clinical psychologist, who wished to remain anonymous, about what we can learn from those who behave badly to those they may judge as their “inferiors”.

“It’s reflective of a culture that sees people as commodities and the self as central,” she said. “A dehumanisation takes place that aids a sense of superiority and power. The invisibility of others who work in the service industry may indicate a person who has had so much provided for them that they don’t ‘see’ what work goes into accommodating them.

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“It’s no different to them that it’s a person, a human being – they see them in the same way that they might see an air conditioning unit and expect it to work effectively to keep them cool. This likely has a significant impact on the ability to empathise or build connections outside of self-serving, transactional relationships.

“If you don’t serve your ‘purpose’, you become worthless or invisible – and are treated as such.”

As Swanson once said, you should watch out for people who have a “situational value system”. He said we should all pay attention to those who can “turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with”. This, according to psychologists, can prove telling – because our value systems are often revealed through our behaviour, and influence what kind of choices we make.

So, when it comes to getting the true measure of a person, we would do well to watch out for these kinds of outbursts, and to ask vital questions of people like James Corden – and, indeed, ourselves – if it does.

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