I Can’t Believe You Just Said That: The Truth About Why People Are So Rude, by Danny Wallace

I love Danny Wallace. Well, I love his writing – I can’t really speak for the man personally (although I did meet him briefly at the Edinburgh Book Festival some years ago, at which he was entirely charming and witty). My favourites are probably Yes Man and Friends Like These. I’ve read both his novels (Charlotte Street and Who Is Tom Ditto?), and while I did enjoy them, I definitely prefer his non-fiction. So I was super excited to receive a review copy of I Can’t Believe You Just Said That, and promptly set aside whatever I was currently reading in its favour.

The trouble is… ah, the trouble is, Mr. Wallace is clearly a man with a vendetta. So enraged at receiving terrible customer service by a putrid purveyor of hotdogs, he set out on a one-man crusade to investigate the effects of rudeness on the world. Danny has his arch-nemesis, his Madam Hotdog… but I have my Dannys 🙁 Right in the introduction, he admits: “I am not above behaving rudely myself […] somewhere there does doubtless exist a tape recording of my absolutely losing my shit with a customer services advisor from BT Broadband, which I imagine is played back in conference rooms for training purposes, nationally, almost every single day.” And, look, I work in broadband customer services. This is my everyday life. Right there on page one, Danny becomes Mr “I’ll see you in court.” Mr “I’ll be naming you personally in my lawsuit.” Mr. “If you don’t have my internet back on in the next hour, I’ll come round there and-”

So you know what? I wasn’t 100% on his side.

The book itself is an interesting examination on the effect of rudeness and attempts to combat it. There are lots of fun case studies, and the serious science is couched in humourous terms. It has awakened me to a lot of everyday rudeness I previously overlooked, and that too is problematic. Right near the beginning, Danny notes that simply being aware of rudeness is enough for it to affect a person psychologically:

“Reading this book, it’s probable you now perceive the world as slightly worse than the person closest to you who is not reading it. Put simply, just by reading about rudess, this book is actively making your life worse.”

So cheers for that.

I Can’t Believe You Just Said That isn’t as funny as his previous writing, but it’s clearly a well researched pet project. And its definitely put me off buying hotdogs from cafes.

Many thanks to Ebury Press at Penguin Random House for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley.

[Read from 6-10 April 2017]

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