Last time, we talked a little bit about validation. Just knowing someone is paying attention to what we’re saying goes a long way toward establishing open, honest communication. Of course, in order for validation to mean anything, there has to be the belief that all living things have value in and of themselves and however a person feels and whatever they say should be acknowledged. Period. Such a concept is a big deal for many people.
Now we can talk about increasing the quality of our validation. All of this is built on a foundation of making up our minds not to be hurtful in any way to another living thing. This usually translates to one of three basic states – polite, kind, or thoughtful. This post concentrates on the first of these – being polite.
Polite is the easiest state of the three to attain and maintain. It’s simple. It can be done on autopilot. Almost. It’s possible to be polite to anyone. Even those we think deserve contempt, disapproval, antagonism, or just those we plain disagree with. It’s just a case of not being rude to them.
Being polite is following the rules/guidelines that have been laid down for many years. Politeness takes a minimum of effort and keeps a person out of trouble with the person(s) they’re interacting with. Overall, it takes less energy to be polite than to engage in any kind of confrontation. Plus, the speakers don’t add any strife to the atmosphere.
In fact, it isn’t necessary to talk at all to maintain politeness. Eye contact and a small nod to acknowledge someone’s presence can be thought of as the bare minimum of polite behavior. In the spirit of not being hurtful, politeness is hard to beat. As Theodore Roosevelt said: “Politeness is a sign of dignity, not subservience.”
This is not to say being polite is being mealy-mouthed or insipid. It is entirely possible to express yourself honestly and still be polite. For example, paraphrasing a definition of diplomacy, which demands politeness at all times, is, “…diplomacy is telling a person to go to hell and have them be happy to be on their way.” So can it be for politeness. It takes skill, though. A challenge to accomplish in everyday situations? Perhaps. But, to quote Josh Billings, “One of the greatest victories you can gain over someone is to beat him at politeness.”
There are hundreds of quotes about politeness and manners online, on all sides of the issue. Just Google “politeness quotes” to see what I mean. Some consider it way down on the list of things needed for success. Some see it as absolutely essential when dealing with others. In my opinion, it never hurts to be polite, no matter what.
In the interest of not making this post too long to comfortably read in a stolen moment, I’ll save my rant (so to speak) about kindness and thoughtfulness for next time. Until then!