Being ‘polite’

Growing up I have always been excessively polite, I don’t know where it started, perhaps my mother (where all habits start?).  My friend still jokes about the time when I went round to hers after school and asked “could I please have a glass of water if it wasn’t too much trouble” (though to be honest I still don’t see why it was so funny).  Whilst I’ve changed a little amongst friends (and when other situations demand it), it still means that most of my life I attempt to lead as politely as I can.  This leads to a constant inner debate with myself about what is the politest action to do at all times. These are some of the ridiculous (but potentially normal?) things I have done, in the name of politeness:

  • Never compliment people at work on their appearance, for fear that other people may hear and feel as though I favour them, or worse, that the person themselves feels that I judge them on what they look like;
  • Never talk to people about their weight, for the reasons above;
  • Fallen off my bicycle and badly cut my knee, then attending a meeting without checking the damage to my knee, even though it hurt so that I wouldn’t be late to the meeting. I obviously didn’t inform anyone I had fallen off my bicycle – I didn’t want them to think me inept;
  • Spent a long time waiting for the ‘right moment’ to ask someone where there toilet was;
  • Spent time at someone’s house with an unbearable thirst because they didn’t offer me a drink;
  • Attempt to wear the same amount of make up as the other women I would be meeting up with (ranging from no make up, to full foundation and ‘contouring’ – I’m so bad at it, I think it’s only right to put it in inverted commas);
  • Wearing tights to work everyday – someone once suggested to me that it was rude to wear a skirt or dress and not wear tights;
  • Implying I am of the same religion as another person;
  • Making polite conversation with anyone who instigates conversation, even if I do not want to talk to them (I do try to avoid eye contact with anyone on public transport to try and minimise the likelihood of the conversation starting);
  • Apologising to anyone who gets in my way;
  • Driving faster than I want to on the motorway whilst in the fast lane so that I don’t hold up the speeding car behind me;
  • Never listening to music loudly unless I am in my car;
  • Never asking anyone to do anything that I think they might not want to do; and
  • Never giving an opinion about anything to people I don’t know for fear that it may upset them.

That is not the end of the list, but it gives you some idea… none of the things are problematic for me, most of the things have advantages for me anyway.  I also think, if I am honest with myself, that most of my politeness is as a result of attempting to do my absolute best to fit in to any given situation – a useful skill, particularly in the work place, but sometimes I do wonder… what would happen if I weren’t so polite.


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