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The Problem With Politeness
August 1, 2003
4:25 pm
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I thought you guys might find this fascinating. Mafi sent this to me. Thank you! I love it and Agree Wholeheartedly!

The Problem With Politeness

Politeness, which should not be confused with respect, consideration, and common decency (all good things), has always been used as a tool of oppression--for instance, to discredit political dissenters and protesters, who are characterized as unseemly and gauche by those against whom the loud slogans and street blockades are directed. The same tactic is employed within collectives to silence dissenters. Collectivism requires openness and honesty. Politeness is anathema to building consensus.

The traditional Anglo-Saxon Protestant niceties, such as not saying anything if one doesn't have anything nice to say, never expressing negative criticism, and rushing to smooth over disagreements, are incompatible with working collectively. Conflict is absolutely essential to the process of hashing out concepts and plans. Ideas have to be throughly and honestly considered. Conversely, making nice when one doesn't mean it only breeds mistrust. A habit of straightforward, up-front truth-telling encourages the group to focus on the content of statements made rather than feeding the constant need to try to ferret out the subtext of people's remarks: "Did she say that just to make me look stupid?" and so forth.

An absence of conflict is almost always a sign that dissent, or even honest input, is being suppressed, usually by an atmosphere that disapproves of making waves.

A manipulative person will invoke social niceties when it's convenient, accusing anybody who raises questions of being disrespectful or disruptive as means to silence them.

Politeness gives bullies free rein, since the social compact says we should respond with quiet composure to someone who attempts to intimidate us by shouting us down. Anyone who responds in kind to verbal attacks is subjected to the group's censure for escalating rather than defusing the hostilities, yet the original attacker, if he or she is a habitual bully who has earned a position of power and deference in the collective through domineering behavior, will get off scot free. People may even come to his or her defense for being so put upon and vilify whoever dared to confront such a beloved and respected member. This behavior is more characteristic of a club led by a charismatic personality than an egalitarian collective, yet something very similar to this happens time and time again in groups that say they operate by consensus.

In consensus, it is essential for members to hear and consider the content of a grievance, even if it is delivered in a flash of anger. In a collective in which there is an atmosphere of intimidation, members who may have concerns will routinely keep their mouths shut. Issues may rise to the surface only when someone has been pushed to the limit and blurts out his reservations by yelling. When that happens, it’s very easy for the domineering person(s) to paint the complainer as “crazy” or “out to get me.“ In fact, a particularly sneaky control freak may intentionally bait the person whom she sees as a threat to her power just to get a heated reaction, which she can then sell to the group as a reason to expel the dissenter.

Collective members must also, on the other hand, determine whether anger is being deliberately used as a tool of intimidation. Speaking honestly will oftentimes raise someone's hackles. The group has to create a safe and open environment in which this is okay.

There is a misconception that because collectivism is based on honesty, equality, and shared ideals, group dynamics will be always loving and supportive. The opposite is true. Collectivism allows people to give voice to their dissent, which can sometimes happen in ways that are not pretty.

A collective that indulges in bland expressions of insincere affection or empathy and frowns on displays of grumpiness, anger, or dislike of another person or idea is not operating by consensus nor by the basic premise of mutual respect. Consensus requires that everyone be given room to vent, for better or worse. Otherwise, there's an authoritarian premise at work in the group.

People get angry. People get frustrated, fed up, confused, defeated, vindictive, resentful, spiteful, and so on. They must be allowed to be, to blow off steam, then maybe apologize later if that's appropriate. On the other hand, if someone deliberately uses histrionics as an authoritarian ploy to frighten potential dissenters, then that person should be called to task.

Collectivism requires respect, which means honest listening and consideration for another's differences and feelings, but not conventional politeness, which is just a veneer of agreeableness, often used deceitfully to conceal one's true opinions or motives.

http://www.geocities.com/colle.....tudes.html

August 1, 2003
4:38 pm
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No wonder I keep getting fired...

LOL, but seriously!

Arwen

August 1, 2003
4:50 pm
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This makes a lot of sense. But it was the way the so many of us were raised. We were always taught to put other's feelings ahead of our own, to be nice, to not "fight", and to be the peace keepers. What people like me weren't taught is how to settle conflicts and how to voice concerns without feeling like we were doing something wrong. We need to teach our children and ourselves exactly what you are saying that people do feel all the emotions whether they are happy ones or angry ones or whatever. When you aren't taught how to respond or interact with people when there are negative circumstances going on then we feel inadequate and feel like we have done something wrong.

"An absence of conflict is almost always a sign that dissent, or even honest input, is being suppressed, usually by an atmosphere that disapproves of making waves." So this is even true in a family. It is unrealistic to expect for family members to "get along" all the time. We all have our own ideas and opinions and they should be allowed to be expressed!

August 3, 2003
3:49 am
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i hate politeness and all that diplomatic stuff too, its so fake.

August 3, 2003
2:18 pm
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Guest guest,

That's what I like about you.

Tooscared,

Very good points. Especially about the family.

When there is no tolerance for conflict, inevitably a scapegoat has to be found. Often in a family where there is no conflict, there is one who is the scapegoat, whom all the negative feelings are targeted at. That's what I like about having left my family. I rejoyce in imagining how they may be at each other's throats now that they don't have me !

Ladeska,

Thanks for posting the article and the link. There are some more good articles on that site.

August 3, 2003
7:58 pm
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Yep, you guys.......it's just so phoney baloney, isn't it? But - it's the herd thingie and it's a way to squelch and beat down people who might have something to say that didn't coincide with those in power, whether in a family or in a government. The bad thing is - this kind of behavior hampers us on all levels as far as going forward is concerned. If we can't critically think, share our opinions - as long as they are with some kind of respectfulness, and shake things up now and then to make sure we can't make something better, or that everyone is really able to contribute what they can - then we end up stuffing, becoming mindless robot puppets of one for or another.

People don't take kindly to someone who all of a sudden decides to flip things around and change the "flow"....but all I can say to that is - oh darn it. Your space on this earth - is your space and if you can - you need to live honestly. We go backwards so much because people don't do that and things become very twisted and diseased and repressed. I can't even begin to really imagine how much creativity energy and intelligence is snuffed out by repression and suppression.

The real meaning to freedom.....begins and ends within your own soul and your own mind. Being honest doesn't have to mean being rude. That's what we've been taught though and that's so very wrong.

August 4, 2003
8:23 am
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I think it takes strength and courage to be willing and able to stand on your own and say "I believe this or that". To not worry about what others think but be true to yourself is very hard to do.

It is true though that when we can't think critically or share our opinions then we do end up stuffing and we become very surface feeling people.

So parents are suppose to encourage their children to learn to think critically and develop the skills they need to form their own opinions and thoughts. Parents can't be threatened by their children's independence but should welcome it because they will be much stronger adults who have learned that it is ok to think for themselves and trust themselves. Novel thought, huh? Too bad it doesn't happen like that all the time. So those of us who weren't taught those skills now have to teach ourselves to think and act that way and it is much harder to reprogram our thinking to do that.

August 4, 2003
11:31 am
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I agree to the above.

But then, I'm also on the phone whith people I've never met. Quite a lot, actually, because this is about a third of the time of my job. And I value politeness during these telephone conversations very highly.

Its not just phoney baloney, if people are polite on the phone, its vital for our communication. Because if somebody leaves away the polite parts of conversation and sticks to the bare facts e.g. "good afternoon, here is Mr. X, could I please have some information about yyy" is a lot nicer to hear than "X here, give me yyy" makes a lot of difference in how I percieve the other person and how I percieve that my clients think about me and my work. Its no effort to be polite, and it just makes things (at least communication) run smoother. I don't think that politenes has to be confused whith being a doormat - you can be polite and at the same time concise and assertive.

Maybe we should talk about our definition of "polite" here. I think that politeness is about the form, not about the facts. If I want to say no to somebody, I do just so. Sometimes people don't hear a no, when its acompanied by "politeness". Then I can repeat "Sorry, you just misunderstood me. This was a clear no from my side". But if people don't want to hear, because they don't like what they hear sometimes things have to be stated more drastically. "I just stated repeatedly that you can't have ..... This won't change, even if you'll find another five ways to rephrase your request".

August 4, 2003
5:35 pm
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I hear you, Eve, and there is definitely a place in our lives for being polite. My definition of politeness would be - depending on who I'm talking to and switching gears to meet them on their level or to match up with how I need to interact with them - I add the appropriate amount of politeness - that is more about - respect than anything else. It's like - I'll take my shoes off at you door and enter in sock feet because I honor and respect you, but I came here to talk to you very honestly and maybe even confrontive...nevertheless, the shoes come off at your door. That kind of thing is politeness to me.

Now if someone comes at me very rudely, most of the time I consider that they don't deserve anything but the hard line and skip right over the politeness. There are times though when if I can muster it, I try to show it anyways because they can be talked down at times and something productive can happen.

The kind of counter-politeness to me - is more about being deceptive than it ever is about showing respect or honor, quite the opposite really. It's downright manipulation, the fist in the silk glove.

It's also largely about - fear. Fear of one not being followed in a group and fear that the others who won't think for themselves because they are just lazy - are very afraid of people who would have emotions, who would have different ideas, who would speak up and rattle cages..........they are very afraid of these kinds of people because - they are "alive". Oddly enough - this is feared.

August 4, 2003
10:28 pm
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eve,
it depends on the situation. if we are the customer, we dont care for politeness, we just say "2 hot dogs and a coke", and then "thanks" after that.

for salesperson, they have to be polite, there's no choice.

>> "good afternoon, here is Mr. X, could I please have some information about yyy"

i would say this sentence reflects more self-respect than politeness. but then one could say if one has self-respect, one is automatically polite to others.
if i am seeking information from someone else, it depends on the situation - if want to take something from them, i have to give something too.
anyway, i'm not good in the "customer service" department, thats not my strong point.

so basically again, politeness required varies vastly from situation to situation and we are all right in our own ways.

August 6, 2003
1:46 pm
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"I'll take my shoes off at you door and enter in sock feet"

What a rude thing to do !!! I would NEVER do that.

Though I've heard that in some remote cultures (Canada, I think) it's considered a sign of consideration. Weird...

So now we have an additional problem, that politeness codes vary from extreme to extreme.

August 6, 2003
3:35 pm
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We take our shoes off because we don't want to dirty the rug. So to show our respect we take our shoes off when we go visiting others.

August 6, 2003
5:28 pm
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I think we just have to be sensitive to what is going on around us. Things like taking shoes off vary household to household. I have friends who always take their shoes off when they go to someone's house. They don't walk around barefoot though- they usually have socks on.

I think the difference here again isn't about being polite as much as being a doormat that people walk all over just because we are afraid to speak up and not offend someone. The term assertive comes into play here I think. We can be assertive without being rude. And if someone takes it as rude then that is their problem because it wasn't meant in that way.

August 6, 2003
10:13 pm
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Funny, huh, Mafi?? I know, cultures are different. For some that would be a sign of extreme disrespect. For me it was more of a figure of speech. Where I was born and raised, that was something you heard yelled at you upon entering - TAKE OFF THOSE SHOES!!! Mainly because of mud and dirt being tracked in on a freshly cleaned floor. I've never been fond of smelly socks myself, but I guess some people dig it! LOL! And if you don't have socks on and they have been in shoes all day - YUCH!!! Especially men's feet!

August 20, 2003
2:50 pm
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Bel,

We don't have carpets in this country. The weather is too hot for that. 🙂

In my country of origin, walking along the street with a bottle of water and drinking from it was bad form. In this country, it's the acceptable thing to do. Because of the heat.

On the other subject, I like politeness unless it's phoney.

August 20, 2003
3:22 pm
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In some countries it's bad manners to show people the soles of your feet or shoes.

August 20, 2003
4:43 pm
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gulp.ooohh okay...

Bel

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