Why Is Everyone So

CRANKY?

Welcome to the Original Cranky Buster site, in operation since 1998.

This site, devoted to the art of self- and stress management, celebrates a book I wrote about the cranky trends in our culture and how these trends affect how we live, love, purse our livelihoods, and look at the world. But the site (and the book, if I ever finish the update!) also offer strategies for keeping these trends from complicating your life and making you a cranky pants.

Sign up to be notified when the new, improved, updated edition of WHY IS EVERYONE SO CRANKY? is released.

NOTE: If your stress level outflanks the national debt, don’t mess with it, bless it! Go to BlessYourStress.com and order an autographed copy. It’s informative and enjoyable, an unusual and effective approach to handling life’s stresses.

About “Why Is Everyone So Cranky”

A personal note from Leslie Charles:

Hyperion loved my book proposal, calling it “original” and “masterful.” They called me a genius because no one else had identified, let alone packaged the cranky trends in such a compelling manner.

What you might want to know about this book (and crankiness in general):

  1. The cranky trends are alive and well, and they have multiplied. The content is still relevant. Many of the predictions I made in the original version have come to fruition. And more trends have sprung up since the book was first written.
  2. One journalist, after reviewing the “cranky” book, stated that I “had my finger on the pulse of our culture.” I still do (that’s my job).
  3. The word “cranky” still resonates with people today as much as when the original editions were released in 1999 and 2001.

A Cranky History

Here is a snapshot of the “cranky” historical perspective featured in the book: a series of seemingly insignificant incidents taking place over five decades. These occurrences systematically blurred our social boundaries to a point that behaviors we once considered private or public, and polite or pugnacious have converged. People now feel free to openly express their crankiness, impatience, anger or rage, wherever they may be.

THE BUILDUP OF CRANKINESS OVER TIME: A five decade account

The Fabricated Fifties – Birth of a dream:

A structured, small town society receives big promises with unintended consequences laying the groundwork for radical changes in an orderly little world.

The Skeptical Sixties – Tattered dreams and disillusionment:

A leadership letdown, social turmoil, and the seeds of urban exodus fuel our unease and we search for ways to ease our disappointment and social discontent.

The Sassy Seventies – The rise of consumerism:

Increased wages, rising costs, credit cards, commercialism, and radical changes in media content shift our perceptions of society and our role as consumers.

The Egotistical Eighties – Access, overload, and excess:

Extended commutes, affluence, consumerism, communications, career competition, and the new 24/7 lifestyle offer us new levels of self-indulgence.

The Nasty Nineties – Talk is cheap:

Media sensationalism, technology addiction, fixation on convenience, and time constriction push us toward an ger, intolerance, and self-absorption.

What’s next – the Too O-O-Opinionated Two’s?

For the 2000 – 2009 decade, I had considered the Terrible Twos, hoped for Tremendous or Terrific Twos, but that’s so yesterday. As the news and social media outlets not just invite but now encourage our opinions and we blithely express them (whether we know anything about the subject or not), I’m quite drawn to the above title.

The Cranky Code (from chapter 1)

In case you live with, work for, or must spend significant amounts of time with someone who fits the cranky profile, the following may help you better understand why they behave as they do. Here are some of the underlying expectations harbored by our cranky citizens who think they have a constitutional right to unleash their insolence on the rest of us (The LA Times suggested this was a perfect item to be posted in workplace break rooms and I agree):

  • I am entitled to what I want when I want it.
  • My time is important and I should not be inconvenienced by others when I’m driving, working, standing in lines, or on the telephone.
  • I have a right to be impatient or rude when other people are behaving stupidly.
  • I am entitled to special privileges because I am who I am.
  • My family should know I care about them without my having to prove it or say it every day.
  • I’m a taxpayer; I own part of this road and I have the right to drive as fast as I want because my time is precious and I have to be somewhere.
  • I not only have the right to pursue happiness, I deserve to be happy and I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve it.
  • I’m entitled to cheat a little bit in order to get ahead. If I don’t take advantage someone else will, and then they’ll be a step ahead of me.
  • I work extra hard but don’t get paid for it so I’m justified in helping myself to a few “souvenirs” from my office to offset what I am rightfully owed.
  • I’m too busy to mince around with false politeness and should be able to tell people exactly what I think without having to worry about their feelings.
  • I must be more in the know than everyone else so I can stay “one up” on them; otherwise they may take advantage of me.
  • I deserve the newest, the biggest, the best, and the most. It’s my right.
  • I’m going to die one day so I may as well get as much as I can right now.
  • So what if I’m being rude – I never have to see this person again so what difference does it make?
  • My opinions and views are more valid than anyone else’s.
  • My emergencies take precedence over anyone else’s emergency.
  • The world is unfair and opportunities are limited, so I may as well get all I can while I can, regardless of who or what stands in my way.

About the Author: Leslie Charles

Award-winning Certified Speaking Professional C. Leslie Charles has pleased audiences with her wit and wisdom for over two decades. Her customized keynotes and workshops educate, entertain, and invigorate her learners to take action on practical, doable strategies. As the author of eight books including the critically acclaimed Why Is Everyone So Cranky?, Leslie has enjoyed extensive media exposure. Her newest book, coauthored with Mimi Donaldson, is titled “Bless Your Stress: It Means You’re Still Alive!”

Perhaps you’ve wondered what Leslie Charles knows about crankiness? Plenty! Leslie will be the first to admit that she was a cranky trail blazer, and so will her mother! With a background that includes failure, poverty, and loss, Leslie blends her personal history with professional accomplishment, bringing over two decades of business know-how, research, and experience to those who hire her. Audience members and applaud Leslie’s practical approaches to everyday problems and her witty yet down-to-earth, delivery.

Leslie speaks and writes with authority on what it takes to live and work with enthusiasm, integrity, and a resilient spirit in spite of all. Her books and speeches are filled with common sense suggestions and original ideas. Her latest book, “Bless Your Stress” is a fresh and downight hilarious look at an often daunting, overworked subject.

Here are some highlights from this resourceful woman’s history:

  • married at 16, MOTHER of 3 by age 20, had completed the 10th grade
  • reentered high school at age 23, DROPPED OUT a second time
  • completed her GED (high school equivalency) at age 29
  • attended Lansing Community College on a WELFARE grant
  • received Associate Degree (with honors) at 31
  • completed BA (Michigan State University) at age 40
  • 25+ years of experience as a human resource trainer, facilitator, and keynote speaker
  • active member of the National Speakers Association since 1982
  • earned the Certified Speaking Professional designation from NSA in 1991
  • served on the NSA Board of Directors for six years (two terms)
  • released her first book in 1993, two more in 1996
  • wrote and released another book in 1997
  • released book number six in 1998
  • received the Charles Leadership Award from NSA Michigan in 1996
  • named the Lansing Community College Most Distinguished Alumni in 1996
  • named the MSU Communication Department Outstanding Alumni in 1998
  • released her seventh book in 2002
  • in September 2005, Leslie was given the prestigious Diamond Award from the Michigan Society of Association Executives, being named Supplier Partner of the Year (one award is bestowed per year to speaker or vendor members of MSAE)
  • book number eight, Bless Your Stress, was released in 2006

Clients who hire Leslie for her speaking services include private and public sector, health care, associations, and educational institutions, including NASA, Prudential Real Estate, National Association of Insurance Women, America First Credit Union, National Centrex users Group, AgStar Financial Services, Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Michigan, Michigan Association of Credit Unions, American Farm Bureau Federation, Allstate Insurance, and over twenty school districts in Michigan and beyond.

Organizations that have purchased large quantities of Leslie’s books include Princess Hotels, Jay’s Sporting Goods, Riviera Country Club, Ameritech, Jackson National Life Insurance Company, State Farm Insurance, Lansing Board of Water & Light, Accident Fund Company, Pak Mail, and more.

“Cranky sightings” A partial list of Leslie’s media appearances and press coverage


Newspapers

Leslie has been featured and quoted in at least 100 newspapers throughout North America, including:

  • USA Today (cover story)
  • Washington Post
  • New York Times
  • Investors Business Daily
  • New Orleans Times-Picayune
  • San Jose Mercury
  • Colorado Springs Gazette
  • Newark Star-Ledger
  • Boston Globe
  • Atlanta Journal
  • Boston Herald
  • LA Times
  • Syracuse Post-Standard
  • Cincinnati Enquirer
  • San Diego Union Tribune
  • Detroit News
  • Kansas City Star
  • New York Daily News
  • Detroit Free Press
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • Toronto Star
  • Nashville Tennessean
  • Hartford Courant
  • Houston Chronicle
  • Dallas Morning News
  • Seattle Times
  • Tulsa World


National TV Appearances

  • CBS This Morning
  • NBC Later Today
  • ABC Lifetime Live
  • FOX & Friends
  • CNN Today
  • MSNBC Morning Blend
  • Extra! News Magazine
  • Odyssey Weekly
  • A & E Open Book
  • PAX Daybreak
  • Debra Duncan Show
  • plus local TV stations stretching from Sacramento to Delaware

National Radio Shows

Leslie has appeared on over fifty local radio stations in the US and Canada

  • Jim Bohannon (Best of Bohannon)
  • Bloomburg Radio
  • Deborah Raye
  • Marketplace Morning Report
  • Senior Focus , Talk America
  • Mitch Albom
  • WNYC, On the Line
  • WCN, New York


Internet

  • MSNBC.com
  • iVillage.com
  • CBS Healthwatch.com
  • in-biz.com
  • SBNmagazine
  • bewell.co

Magazines

  • Redbook
  • Woman’s Day
  • Bottom Line Personal
  • Insight, Washington Times
  • Sodexho Marriott Executive Memo
  • American Way
  • The Rotarian

For the Media: an Interview with Leslie Charles

What inspired you to write this book?

Beginning in the eighties, following my speeches or seminars, people would confidentially tell me:

I hate my job… I hate my boss… I don’t like my life… My spouse and I don’t communicate… I don’t have time to (exercise) (eat right) (relax)… I’m stressed out… Work isn’t as fun as it used to be…If they make me learn computers I’m going to (quit my job) (retire early).

After hearing these comments, regardless of where I was in the U.S., I began observing our society the same way I do a workplace when I’m hired as a consultant, looking for “invisible” indicators that something is awry. That’s how I discovered the ten trends that influence how we handle time, relationships, entertainment, money, work, technology, health, and lifestyle.

Simply put, “Why Is Everyone So Cranky?” is a self-help book with a sociological backdrop: a “Megatrends Meets Seven Habits.” While it covers a serious topic, readers enjoy my conversational writing style and sense of humor.

When and how did crankiness become such an issue in our country?

In the book I present a five-decade history outlining the evolution of crankiness, beginning with the Fabricated Fifties and Skeptical Sixties followed by the Sassy Seventies, Egotistical Eighties and Nasty Nineties. Despite the economic expansion, low unemployment, and high standard of living in the nineties, people were angry and discontent: overwhelmed, overworked, overscheduled, overspent, and under nurtured.

And people feel entitled to their crankiness, justifying their anger instead of trying to get rid of it! Too many of us had become self-absorbed, emotionally isolated, and disconnected from each other, with a hostility that was hard to fathom. Never had so many, with so much, been so unhappy!

Consider the popularity of the word “rage” for nearly a decade: road rage, air rage, grocery store rage, parking lot rage, snow rage, pedestrian rage, sports rage, desk rage, surfer rage, you name it. When a word becomes a part of our language it’s very telling. Our language reveals something about where we are as a culture, and the word rage resonated.

Consider further that there was never a positive counterpart: no reports about road rapture, air bliss, express line joy or desk delight! But let’s focus on the point that has eluded many people: anger is anger; rage is rage! The modifier doesn’t matter. It’s still aggression and hostility, regardless of where it takes place.

Today the operative word is rude. We’ve gone from rage to rudeness, so I guess that’s progress. Rudeness is less volatile than rage, but it’s still a symptom of something awry.

Did September 11, 2001 change the landscape of crankiness?

In the span of a few hours our cultural crankiness transformed into an outpouring of compassion. The numbers of people who volunteered, sent money, or gave blood after the attacks brought tears to my eyes. Our mood immediately shifted but alas, it didn’t last. I can’t believe the number of people who tell me they weren’t really affected by the events of September 11.

People now talk about how great everything was before the attacks, and in comparison to what’s happening now, they’re right. Too bad we weren’t able to fully enjoy the nineties boom at the time. I’m convinced that the less we have to worry about, the more we find to complain about, and it pains me to say this but how could things change too much? All of the same forces that initially complicated our lives and caused the cultural crankiness of the nineties are still there, plus some, and unless we consciously change how we live, love, and look at the world, these same social trends are affecting us, pushing us to the edge.

Think for a moment about how emotionally fragile we were before 9/11. Consider the number of anger management courses that sprung up during the nineties, coupled with the ever increasing numbers of people today who seek medical treatment for their stress.

Not only were we cranky up to September 11, some of us were violent, as if we were at war with each other – and remember, this was back when things were supposedly going well!

In the past decade, people were murdered over fender benders, improperly shoveled sidewalks, barking dogs, shoving matches in lines, and other trivialities. Are we equipped to handle the day to day emotional pressures of living with terrorism in the twenty first century? I certainly hope so!

 

Is the crankiness you write about in the book any different from what we’ve experienced the past?

There have always been cranky people in the world, but here’s the difference: There are now more of us in the same place at the same time wanting the same space, goods, services, or attention. Many of us are chronically busy, sleep deprived, working longer hours, suffering longer commutes, balancing impossible personal schedules, and some of us don’t realize we’re close to the breaking point.

For example, do you ever find yourself in a mad hurry to get somewhere you don’t even want to go? Do you get impatient or angry, at the driver ahead of you who happens to be going the speed limit?

If you think about it, road rage is an apt metaphor for the rushed way we’re living: it’s as if we’re mad at ourselves for our out of control lifestyles and we’re taking it out on others. The nautical definition of the word “cranky” is liable to capsize. Does that sound like any society you know?

 

Is there anything else contributing to our crankiness?

Blurring social boundaries have also complicated our lives. Thanks to technology, we can now literally take our work home with us, or anywhere else, and many of us do! As businesses go 24/7, the lines between our professional and personal lives have nearly disappeared. And there’s more.

With the popularity of cell phone use, there’s little distinction between private conversation and public disclosure. Internet sites, shock jock radio hosts, and TV talk shows solicit our opinions, regardless of how much we actually know about a situation.

In our culture, busyness is equated with success, but chronic busyness brings an overburden of anxiety, despite the so-called conveniences that surround us. Some people use their jobs as a convenient escape from inner conflicts and issues, figuring that if they’re buried in work they won’t have time to think about anything else.

As a result of chronic busyness and compulsive overscheduling, we’re moving faster, and so are our kids. Parents tell me they like to keep their kids busy so the kids won’t get into trouble. I can empathize, but what are the parents really saying?

Which of the ten trends seem to be most responsible for our crankiness?

The two biggest contributors to our chronic stress are time and technology. Our pace of life is continually accelerating, and we keep trying to catch up by moving faster. To further complicate the picture, cell phones, pagers, and high tech devices allow us to be interrupted anywhere, any time, and this constant accessibility – and compulsive use – fragments what little time we do have, adding to our sense of urgency, emergency, and self-importance. We need to learn that we are no longer living in an era of time management: we’ve moved into an era of choice management!

But thanks to a constantly accumulating stress load, when the computer goes down, a line is long and slow, traffic ties up when we’re running late, or the driver in front of us does something stupid, instead of taking these things in stride, people get mad! Maybe it’s already occurred to you that technology has made life so convenient we’ve lost our tolerance to inconvenience.

 

Is there anything else along these lines?

We’re encouraged by ubiquitous advertising and marketing to perceive life as a constant “upgrade parade.” We hate having to wait for what we want, and whatever we have isn’t good enough. Beneath our ongoing feelings of discontent lie specific expectations about the kind of life we should be living and every letdown, disappointment, or frustration we experience is connected to an expectation that didn’t get met.

When things fall short of our expectations, disappointment sets in. We may feel angry and ripped off. We might wonder what we’re doing wrong because we haven’t achieved the life we were supposed to have. Thanks to this clash of fantasy and reality, we confuse expectation with entitlement. The frequency of “pump and drive off” incidents whenever fuel prices surge is an example of consumer entitlement. Hate mail and death threats are another expression of entitlement. Those people don’t realize that the more right you try to be, the more wr ong you are.

Well, you’ve outlined WHY we’re cranky. In your book do you also cover what to DO about crankiness?

Ironically, it isn’t usually the big things in life that make us cranky; it’s the buildup of little things, day after day, that get to us. This book is about 100 often-overlooked aspects of life that have the potential of complicating our lives. There are quizzes and checklists to clarify these areas.For every problem presented in the book, I offer solutions: anti-cranky alternatives. Here are three of my favorites and they certainly could help with the day to day uncertainty we’re now living with:

  1. Visit the Quick Stop! Enhance your ability to live “in the moment.” Literally stop in your tracks and ask yourself: What am I thinking? How is my body feeling right now? This kind of exercise not only helps raise your self-awareness, it also helps you monitor your thoughts and relieve your stress and tension.
  2. Boost Your Emotional Immune System (EIS) by consciously categorizing irritating circumstances. Just like ordering up fast food, you can serve yourself a “fast mood.” Before getting upset, ask yourself:
    Is this a small, medium, or large annoyance? How upset should I get and how long should I stay upset?
    Imagine how much this would relieve sticky situations if we’d just take the time to do it!
  3. Reduce your frustrations by taking a Reality Bite when you need one: You will be inconvenienced and have to stand in lines or sometimes wait for what you want. Take it.
    People are going to do things that irritate you. Count on it.
    You will sometimes have to do things you don’t want to do, like exercise and eat properly, or drive the speed limit. Put up with it.
    You’ll occasionally have to let someone else’s emergency take precedence over yours. Live with it. Uncontrollables are a part of life. Accept it. Hassles won’t disappear, but you can smile and spend a moment feeling grateful that every one of these nuisances don’t happen every day. Keep your perspective and get on with your life.

Are you saying that we’re supposed to stifle our anger?

I’m saying we don’t even have to go there, and if we weren’t so overloaded we’d realize this. Being chronically overloaded and overwhelmed puts us in “react mode” where we automatically treat trivial circumstances as if they’re a major crisis. For too many of us, anger has become a default position. There’s no longer a “hierarchy” of annoyance anymore; no small, medium, or large: just super size! Do you know anyone who fits this description?

In many cases, anger doesn’t even need to be an option. In the book I talk about the importance of finding your purpose in life, and living in sync with your priorities. Once your know what’s really important to you, your perspective changes drastically, and incidents that once made you angry won’t bug you anymore. You can let the little things go and reserve your anger for when it’s appropriate.

Leslie, were YOU ever cranky?

I was cranky long before it was fashionable! As a pregnant teen (age 16), I dropped out of school, got married, and had three kids by the time I was 20. When my husband left, I lost the only “job” I’d ever wanted: to be a wife and mother, even though it was a very unhealthy marriage. I went to work because I had to, and put a lot of energy into resenting it. I was very angry after my divorce and it took me years to realize that most of my misery was self-inflicted.

What motivated you to quit being cranky?

Until my late twenties, all I had known was failure. At age 23 I reentered high school but dropped out a second time. You can imagine how devastating this was! Three years later, when my husband walked out, I felt frightened, resentful, and pitifully insecure.

Ironically, misery was my first big motivator. One night I interrupted my own “pity party,” with the insight that unless something significant happened I could spend the rest of my life feeling this bad. I didn’t know what I wanted, I only knew what I didn’t want: to feel so miserable and hopeless.

Up to that point I’d been waiting for some nice guy to rescue me and my kids. Now I knew that if I wanted my life to change, it was up to me. I took my GED (high school equivalency) exam, quit my job, and signed up for welfare so I could get my community college degree. This was a huge step for me. I learned that I could learn, grow, and change, and I’ve never stopped. Though I’ve experienced losses and setbacks, my life today still surpasses anything I could have imagined.

You’ve talked about the bad news; what’s the good news?

Crankiness is an okay place to visit, but you don’t want to live there! We have so much potential, and we need to be willing to do the inner work that will direct us toward fulfillment and peace of mind. Some of the good news is that we truly want to reconnect. We want to live “in the moment” and be clearer about what’s important to us. Even before September 11 there was a growing movement toward searching for a more solid spiritual base. In addition, support groups exist for almost every life crisis or challenging situation, and there are also many people (like myself) who are making a difference through everyday acts of kindness and compassion.

I begin and end the book with the words “there is a problem and there is hope.” I state that the hope lies within each one of us because we have the wisdom and the capability of trading crankiness for compassion, if w so choose. September 11 was a crash course in value clarification and it was a painful one. My heart goes out to those who lost a friend or loved one in the attacks or rescue work that followed. The surprising truth though, and I say this as someone who has suffered extreme loss, that somehow life goes on. Somehow we find the strength to prevail against adversity, and that’s why I write self-help books.

Ending on a lighter note, let me make a last comment about handling everyday irritations and nuisances: I like to remind people that you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond. In other words, while other people can ruin your moment, only you can ruin your day

This document includes the questions I’m most frequently asked by radio hosts and journalists. Should you have any additional questions, feel free to call me at 517.253.8918 or send an email to nocranky@aol.com.