The Importance of being Polite
[CONTENT] I was recently searching the internet looking for interesting articles about people who
are influential and important to me. I came across an article about Nia Vardalos’ last trip to Australia
in 2009. As I was reading it, I felt something was off, as if it wasn’t completely factual information.
However, I kept on reading and towards the end there was something written about Nia Vardalos’
daughter that she and her husband, Ian Gomez, adopted in 2008. I liked what I read, so I posted a
link to the interview on Twitter. Nia Vardalos then very politely wrote to me to tell me that the
interview I had linked to Twitter was actually “fiction” as she put it. She told me that about 90% of
the information written in that article was false, and it seemed that the journalist had just
paraphrased her words. That made me sad to hear. I don’t understand why people feel inclined to
lie, or provide false information for the sake of a ‘good story’. She replied again and said “…That’s
why I started writing for magazines, so the real story would be out there.” I commended her, saying
that there should be more honest people out there. In my opinion, there really is no need for lying,
dishonesty and importantly: impoliteness.
After this conversation, I got to thinking. I realised that there are certain expectations placed on
individuals regarding indoctrination into formal methods of politeness which manifests itself in our
every action, whether deserved or not by those we interact with.
Then I thought that if this above statement is in fact true; how do we constantly find ourselves in
situations of rudeness and arrogance? If everyone has this expectation that people should be polite
because it’s the right thing to do, why are there still some extremely rude people out there?
Let’s face it; the well-mannered human can scarcely be found amongst the rude, arrogant,
disrespectful people of the world today.
Why is this?
Could it be as a result of bad parenting? Let’s explore that, shall we.
Have you ever heard of the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child”? This motto could perhaps
imply that a person’s misbehaviour, although very much their own fault, can’t just be blamed on the
parents. It seems that in order to work out why people act the way they do, we as humans feel the
need to place blame. I wonder, is placing blame impolite?
In my family, I am the youngest of four children: 3 girls, 1 boy. Mum always told us that outside
(family) influences such as school and friends, impact greatly on children and their
behaviour/knowledge of what is right and wrong. It was drummed into us at a very early stage of
what was polite and expected behaviour, and what was disrespectful and ‘bad’ behaviour.
I believe it is up to the parents to make sure that the child knows what is right and what is wrong
behaviour BEFORE they step foot on the playground. We were always taught that it was imperative
that we be polite in all circumstances.
We must always respect our elders.
We must always address an adult as Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so, even if advised to call them by their first
names. (Even at UNI I feel guilty for calling lecturers/tutors by their first names. I should at least call
them “sir” or “ma’am”).
We must always thank someone for asking how we are, but were to NEVER say “Good thanks”,
because what if we weren’t being “good” that day? Then we would be lying.
We were taught that lying is never going to be the right thing to do. There is no reason to lie and if
you do, it will just get you into trouble.
Above all things, we must always be polite. Being polite can just brighten someone’s day instantly.
Treat others as you wish to be treated...politely.
In my circumstance, I think this level of ‘bringing up a child’ was worthwhile. It certainly worked for
me. It worked for my siblings until they reached their teenage years, then they rebelled as everyone
apparently does (not me) but soon came to realise mum was right. As much as we would like to
disagree, mum’s are always right.
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I asked my mum what being polite means to her and also why she thinks it is so important to be
polite to everyone we encounter on a daily basis. This is her answer:
[For me] Being polite means to show respect to others the same way we want
others to act towards us, especially towards those older than ourselves and
especially towards the elderly. When people speak disrespectfully to an elderly
person, they tend to become agitated and angry and very upset easily. If
someone shows them respect and is polite to them, their mood is mirrored back
and a conversation can be very pleasant and it is a win-win situation. People
respond by the way you speak to them. For every action there is a reaction.
Being polite to the elderly and kind, they show you their appreciation of your
presence with them. In the long run you are the one who benefits by their
response if you are kind and loving towards them.
A simple handshake, saying hello to someone or just a simple smile is all it takes
to make someone’s day. Children learn from their parents, but unfortunately,
some children don't see their parents show respect these days, not even to their
own parents or to other people or siblings, which is sad as the next generation
will pick this up and their children will have no reason to be polite to others as
they have never seen it in their own family. Children are like sponges and if they
are not shown the correct simple values in life they end up not knowing how to
show respect or politeness to their teachers, bosses, leaders of our country and
the elderly and even to themselves.
I think mum raised a good point when she said “In the long run you are the one who benefits by their
response if you are kind and loving towards them.” However, it leads me to my next point (and part
in the ‘series’) – are people being polite for all the wrong reasons?
Are people being polite for all the wrong reasons?
I recently came across a site where people were discussing ‘being polite’.
I thought it would be a nice site to do some research on, but after reading a few posts I was taken-
aback by the greediness I was reading before me.
People would reply to the question “Why be polite?” with things like:
“I…get a lot of free stuff from…coffee shops just because I am known as being friendly and polite…”
“I got two free coffees on Sunday for being polite.”
“I get upgraded to 1st/business class about 40% of the time…(75% of the time when the person
working the gate was a woman.)”
These comments, to me, had more than one meaning. These people were trying to express that if
you are polite, good karma will come your way…
When reading these comments for the first time, that was not the immediate meaning I took from
My immediate reaction was that they were all acting selfish and only being kind on the account that
they could receive something great in return…like two free coffee’s.
In my opinion, people should think less about themselves and more about the people they
encounter during their day.
Are people being polite for all the wrong reasons?
Can politeness be seen as a form of dishonesty? (http://www.captaincynic.com/thread/55615/why-
In searching for the benefits of treating others politely, I came across a video which I will post in the
video section of this blog.
I found it to be quite strange, yet also helpful in that it showed *real people with real problems and
gave insight into how impoliteness makes them feel.
Please watch the clip.
*N.B: Video content may be seen as corny and is not advised to be watched by anyone.
When talking about conflict, we should always take in the old adage: “Never get into an argument
with a pig because a pig loves the mud.” One of the first times I heard this was in the video which I
posted in the Outside Sources page on this blogsite.
If someone is rude to you, do you be rude back or hit them up with as much politeness as you can
If you’ve watched the video mentioned above, you’ll know that Nia Vardalos, star of My Big Fat
Greek Wedding (2002), tries to be as polite as she can be when rudeness is thrown in her face. As
Katie Couric quoted her in the aforementioned video, she said, “…the ruder people get, the nicer I
become. It drives them nuts. If someone yells, just laugh at the fun, loud noise that person is making.
If he or she makes sarcastic comments, act as if you don’t get it. The more the person boils just break
into song, hug other co-workers, treat everyone to pizza and drinks. Simply refuse to let the energy
vampires suck the life out of the room.”
I believe this is a good motto and should be practised throughout humanity. As Vardalos also stated,
being polite doesn’t mean that you can be walked all over. We’re not stupid. It just means that you
should take in the good in what people are saying, disregard the bad…let it slip right off of you.
There are more than one benefit of being polite to people in passing, or in general.
Think, perhaps of the economic benefits of politeness.
If you are walking past someone who it is quite clear they need your help, and you do nothing, take
for instance my friend Phoebe. She was telling me that there was an old man at a train station one
day who was fumbling with his bags and walker, and his umbrella fell off his walker and onto the
ground. Phoebe walked over to the old man, picked up his umbrella and said “there you go, sir, you
dropped this. Have a nice day” and with that she gave him a polite smile and made sure he didn’t
need anything else before continuing with her day.
You see, this did not take lots of time and effort for Phoebe to do. It was a few seconds out of her
day, but just think if she hadn’t done that and the man hurt himself while trying to reach for it, that
would be (perhaps) of great economical strain to him. Doctors appointments, doctors bills. What if it
was raining heavily and not one person stopped to help? Then he could have caught pneumonia and
died (very extreme, I know…trying to make a point). So as we can see, not only could she have saved
him (or his family) the financial expense, but she may have also saved him the trouble of having
other people look after him (assuming he just hurt himself badly). Through that, she also helped to
secure his safety for a moment longer.
So, by taking a few moments out of your day to do something nice for a stranger, we can see that it
may just be the deciding factor between life and death…in VERY extreme circumstances.
In the words of Arnott’s: [picture] “it’s nice to be nice”
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go and thank some people.