Life Lessons: The Power of Politeness

We have struggled in teaching the kids to be polite to others, especially in times of frustration & disappointment. So we thought a lot about this, reflected on personal examples in our own lives, and then explained to them how we believe that not only is it right to treat others with respect & dignity – but that it is also, generally, a more effective strategy in achieving the desired result for most any situation. We, in particular, emphasized to them that we choose the path of politeness & kindness because we believe that the Golden Rule is true – that we should treat others as we would want to be treated!

Societies & Social Interactions

Humans are social animals. We live in societies, and as a reality of that fact – we necessarily have to interact with others. Therefore, we are going to need to have an overall strategy for interacting with other people.

Some people adopt a strategy in which they bully & push other people around to get what they want – while others choose the path of politeness, respect & kindness.

Sure – both are really just methods of manipulation, but manipulation is an inescapable reality of social interaction. We can’t really change that – so better to simply acknowledge it and move on.

The Golden Rule – Even When Dealing With the IRS?

Years ago I had a conversation with one of my sister’s boyfriends. He was explaining to me how he had a tax issue with the IRS that year and how he was dealing with it.

Now I realize that some people would argue that if there is any single exception to where we need to treat someone as an actual human being – it is in the instance of tax collectors. But let’s just assume, for conversation purposes, that IRS employees aren’t just mindless drones without souls that are bent on the destruction of civilization…

This young man, let’s just call him Herman, was explaining to me that he would literally scream at the people on the other end of the line at the IRS, to try get the results that he wanted. At first I thought he was joking, but as the conversation progressed I realized that he was being serious.

I was appalled! It really made me think of my approach – which was the polar opposite of his.

Call me old- fashioned, but if I don’t like being treated that way, I am guessing that maybe others don’t appreciate it either!

They’re Just Doing Their Job….

Not only is it RIGHT to treat others courteously & with respect, it is also, most often, just more EFFECTIVE in obtaining the result you are seeking!

When I’m dealing with someone that is part of a larger organization, I try to make sure I remember that the person I am speaking is just an agent of the company that I might be upset with. It’s not fair for me to take out my frustrations on them, as they likely had nothing to do with the creation of the problem at hand. As such, I treat them with respect & politeness.

Most people, generally, do not like confrontation. So to some extent, people tend to concede when forced to deal with someone that is bullying them. Therefore, this bullying approach may be effective to a degree within the limitations of an employee’s authority.

But when being bullied or harassed, most front-line employees of larger companies or organizations, who have very limited authority are just going to bump the problem up to their supervisor. They know that they have a manager that is better equipped, has greater authority and is compensated better to deal with the bigger problems and more difficult people that call into the company or organization.

Those managers probably also have some training and experience in dealing with these types of situations – and, hence, this bullying type approach is a lot less likely to succeed when used against them.

In fact, some people’s personalities are such that they tend to stand up straighter and fight back the more you attack them. Likewise, training of employees in dealing with abusive customers often entails teaching them to set boundaries & limits with such customers and terminate contact, if for example, the abusive customer has accumulated 3 strikes (3 strikes and you’re out).

Wrapping Up

As humans – we all have a need to feel valued & respected, so we must also be cognizant of showing that same value & respect we crave towards others. One of the primary ways we do so when interacting with others is by being polite & courteous.

I find, that personally, I am much more likely to go out of my way to help someone that is polite & respectful towards me. Furthermore, I believe that if that is my feeling & inclination – that most other people share that view with me, and are therefore more likely to help me if I am kind, polite & respectful towards them. I know not everyone does – but I believe most do.

On the contrary, if someone is rude & abusive to me – I am MUCH more likely to walk away, do the absolute minimum required of me, and/or call them out & confront them on their behavior. I don’t believe that someone who is rude & abusive should be rewarded for that type of behavior, nor would I expect to be rewarded if I were rude & abusive towards someone else.

I imagine that if I resorted to being impolite & abusive to get a desired result – I may feel happy about attaining the OUTCOME I wanted – but would not feel good about how I behaved or treated another individual. It would also be acting in a manner that is inconsistent with what I believe to be right.

When I deal with someone in a polite & respectful manner, regardless of whether or not I achieve my goal, I still feel GOOD about myself & how I behaved. AND I acted in a way that I have been taught, and believe in my heart, is the right way to treat others.

The fact that it is also more likely that I achieve the desired outcome is really just a nice added bonus!

I choose the path of politeness, kindness & respect. I expect, and hope, that my kids will too….


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Blessed father of 4 wonderful children & trophy husband to 1 lovely wife. Part-time blogger, full-time nerd & aspiring Renaissance man!

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