Should I Be Polite?
Polite people are just asking to be walked all over.
This is not a Q1 violation unless you consider other people’s politeness to be desirable.
This is not a Q2 violation if you consider impolite people to be assertive, self-confident, or otherwise behaving in an acceptable manner.
Although it is possible to make this statement pass 2Q, doing so is likely based on a poor definition of the word "polite." Being polite does not mean backing down or letting others get their way, but rather it means maintaining a certain socially acceptable standard of behavior. It would be rare for someone to not want a socially acceptable standard of behavior to be maintained, and it is certainly possible to be both assertive and polite.
If you agree that it is worthwhile to be polite, the next question is whose standard of behavior you should live up to. Keep that question in mind and ask yourself how you would behave in these situations.*
- You are visiting Japan. On a crowded commuter train, you get out of your seat to make room for a pregnant woman, but a young businessman grabs the seat as soon as you have vacated it.
- You are a teenage boy visiting distant relatives in Saudi Arabia. Your uncle greets you at the airport and holds your hand as you walk to where he parked his car. You know that men holding hands is normal here, but it is creeping you out.
- You are a teenage boy whose distant relatives from Saudi Arabia are coming for a visit. Your greet your uncle at the airport and he tries to hold your hand as you walk to where you parked your car. You know that men holding hands is normal where he comes from, but if any of your friends saw you, they would eternally rag you about it.
- Your grandmother always says grace before dinner, but you aren’t religious. One night, when you are eating at her house, she asks you to say the blessing.
- You know that you’re supposed to have your fork in your left hand when cutting and in your right hand when picking up food, but you think that switching utensils back and forth is dumb.
- Your granddaughter tells you she wants to get a tattoo. When you were a girl, only hussies, gangsters, and pirates had tattoos.
- Your family has been invited to a party being thrown by your father’s boss. It’s formal, and as if having to wear a dress wasn’t bad enough, if you wear heels you’ll probably break an ankle.
- Your son starts calling you by your first name. You’re no Ward Cleaver, but that just doesn’t feel right.
- Your teenage daughter and a couple of her friends come over after school. Your daughter’s clothing is fine, but there’s way too much skin showing on those other girls.
- When your boss is annoyed by something she’s working on, she cusses up a blue streak. You’re not comfortable with that kind of language.
- When you’re annoyed by something you’re working on, you cuss up a blue streak. Your boss tells you that she’s not comfortable with that kind of language.
- You’re a retail clerk and a customer is being unreasonable, annoying, and rude. You would so love to tell him off and ask him to leave, but management wouldn’t approve.
- You’re a female nurse and an elderly patient whistles at you as you walk by.
- You’d like to have a money tree at your wedding so that people can give you cash in addition to gifts, just like they do in Europe, but your family’s not European.
- You’re having trouble eating your soup without slurping. You know that in Japan it’s acceptable to drink soup directly from the bowl, but you’re in an Italian restaurant in New York.
*In all of these situations, assume you are an American.
You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.