Is Politeness for Sissies?

“Politeness [is] a sign of dignity, not subservience.”
? Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt has it right.  For most people being polite is pretending  I don’t think pretending is necessary. There is immense power in allowing other people to have their say, and not feeling threatened by their opinion. In fact welcome it.  In my experience for most of us being heard is more important than being right.  However when you are ignored or talked over, the need to be right can be insistent.

The urge to be heard becomes all consuming, when you have been silenced too many times.. It is tough to be gentle and kind when you have swallowed more hurt and rejection than a king’s ransom.

That 360 degree head turn thing happens.

When you find yourself feeling that urge to yell or explode “what about me” when it feels like you are being dramatic or pitiful, give yourself a gift.   A dose of compassion for yourself is a lovely way to own that you feel bad, sad, mad that you were ignored.

Knowing that your opinion matters, is key to understanding how important needing to be heard is.  This does not mean you have to agree with other people, or make them feel bad about what they express.

Speaking your truth with boundaries of politeness is the best way to be heard.  Not telling other people they must believe what you believe.  Rather allowing room for a discourse that could lead to growth, or at the minimum fascinating conversation.  Who wants to only talk to people that agree with us?  There is a danger in living in a bubble surrounded only by agreement.

Politeness is showing other people that you are their equal.  That both of you have the right to disagree without damage.    Are you comfortable enough in your beliefs, that no one can sway you with their rhetoric?   I would love to hear how you deal with discomfort in dialogue.

Joie de Vivre,

Jen Duchene

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Is Politeness for Sissies? — 4 Comments

  1. Knowing how to speak your truth is essential to being happy. We teach others how to treat us. So you want to say what matters to you in a positive way others can hear & heed. Being polite is a good container.

    Being collaborative is better. You build your connection or relationship thru talking & gain compassion for yourself and others. That takes courage, self-love ans skill. Happily, we can grow into all three. Thanks so much Jennifer for joining in the revolution to empower women!

    Be heard & prosper!
    Dina Eisenberg

    • Dear Dina,
      I totally agree that speaking out and doing it in a polite way make us stronger. Collaboration is definitely something to strive for. Thank you for commenting and yes I am happy to be part of empowering women.

  2. Politeness is such a complex subject. On the surface, most agree there’s a dearth of it in this era.

    Yet, while there’s too many instances of incivility (and of one-sided conversation, in general), we may also be a bit nostalgic, not realizing that it can be constricting when the form and not the spirit of it is overvalued.

    Many people would prefer that others stifle legitimate discomfort (or worse), rather than broach it in the interest of healing the problem – and they seem to think that discouraging others when they try to enforce healthy boundaries somehow fosters politeness. It’s a very subconscious process, but one very worth addressing. (Frankly, I think women are more hurt by this, as it’s not nearly as culturally acceptable for us to express normal, ‘negative’ emotions as it is for men. There’s also frequently less respect for our boundaries.)

    On the other hand (perhaps in reaction to this), you have those who advocate brutal honesty. While I appreciate the sentiment behind some of that, tact is utterly critical. It means we don’t just care about our own self-growth, we see others as having inherent worth, even when pointing out how it hurt when they weren’t as considerate as we’d have liked.

    So, in answer to your question: When politeness is rooted in preserving an illusion of contentment or civility at the expense of others well-being, it’s fear-based – and thus weak. But when it stems from acute consciousness, of respect for everyone (ourselves included), it’s quite a strength. Especially when it’s expansive enough to encompass gracefully speaking those things that take guts to say, in the spirit that it’ll save us all pain down the road.

    And I agree heartily with Ms.Eisenberg. Conversations aren’t something to be won, and are far more rewarding when you learn and contribute in equal measures. While I have quite firm convictions, and have spent much times developing viewpoints that align with these values, I love the all-too-rare thought-provoking dialogs that brings to light hidden assumptions that need to shift/expand.

    • Phaedre, I so enjoyed your fabulous comment. Yes Politeness is complex, like humans :). And I totally agree that politeness is better when it comes from respect and truth. We have no need to hide how we feel, indeed we do a diservice to ourselves and others if we cannot share civil opinions. It is true that hidden assumptions are rarely addressed in polite company, or havent been up till now. I love that we can share, support and grow in a place of mutual respect and acknowledgement. Personally I believe that everyone wants to be heard. Sometimes they are out of practice, and that is ok. New habits take a lot of work to become comfortable. Lets bring on shifts and expansion.

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