Being Polite

Posted February 18, 2014 by Marie Arcidiacono in On the Ladder
Be polite

How polite are you? I want you to really think about this question, because the odds are we could all probably be a little more polite than we actually are. I get it, trust me I do. That instinct to throw politeness to the wind when being rude is 100 times easier? Yup, been there. It happens, but I always try to remember that nice women finish first and make a better effort to be more polite in my life.

Recently in class I went over “Politeness Theory,” a theory developed by social psychologists Penelope Brown and Stephen Livingston. Brown and Livingston argue (paraphrasing here) that people have a basic need to be treated politely and that when people are polite to us we tend to view them more positively. Makes sense right? The more polite we are to others, the more they view us in a positive light–super important when it comes to upholding a positive face/reputation in the workplace and in life.

So, why then does it seem like everyone has forgotten how to be polite on a regular basis?

I come in contact with dozens of people on a regular basis. So I think it’s fair for me to make the assertion that people are not very polite. I could go on and on about the non-polite behavior I encounter but that’s not the point of this article, the point is how can we be more polite?

Here are my Ms. A-isms on politeness for you:

  1. Greet people when they answer your call, especially if you are calling a customer help line. Jumping right into what you need is rude. You can spare 5 seconds of your day to say, “Hello.” This also leads to remembering that the person who answered your call is NOT the person your anger/frustration should be directed to. This person is just doing their job and they most likely did NOT personally cause your issue. It’s amazing to me how simply being polite on my end of the phone can change the dynamic of the call and get me to where I need in a shorter amount of time. *This mentality also applies to interacting in a variety of customer service industries. I’ve asked around and many people I know who work in these industries say that their attitude and demeanor change depending on whether or not their customer is rude or polite from the get go.*
  2. Focus on using a person’s name when you are interacting with them, particularly if you are trying to get them to do something for you. People LOVE when you remember their name. This is something that was ingrained in me during years of sorority rush and something I still use to this day. Sidebar: Have trouble with names? Make it a goal to say a person’s name THREE times in the course of the conversation.
  3. Say “Please” and “Thank You.” This should be a GIVEN when you need something or have received something. If you don’t do this and someone has helped you out (especially if they didn’t have to) they might make a mental note if it and not be so willing to help you in the future.
  4. Hold doors open for people regardless of their sex or gender. If you’re going through a door and see someone coming behind you prop it open. Holding a door open for someone is something that goes a long way and doesn’t take much extra effort on your part.
  5. When you see someone struggling to reach something offer to help them. Tall women I’m talking to you specifically. As a fellow tall woman I try to offer assistance when I see someone at the grocery store reaching for a can on the top shelf, and more often than not these people appreciate my willingness to offer help. They also say, “Thank You!”
  6. Make eye contact with someone when you are asking them for a favor. Take the time to let them know that you acknowledge them as a person before you ask for your favor.  So yes, put down your cell phone and look them in the eye when you ask.
  7. Smile! Even if you aren’t super happy about a situation smiling will make you seem more pleasant and thus, the person may respond more favorably.

Those are my go to tips for being more polite in our everyday lives. What are some of yours?

About the Author

Marie Arcidiacono

Marie is a Speech Communication professor who also coaches a debate team. She truly loves what she does and hopes to continue to teach for decades to come. In her "free time" she is an avid runner. Marie enjoys running a variety of distances, including the Half Marathon. She is dedicated to living as healthy a lifestyle as she can while balancing a very busy schedule. Marie loves to network and share ideas so writing for Career Girl Network is perfect for her. You can also read about her adventures on Why Not Girl!.