Is there such a thing as being TOO polite?
I used to think that nice gestures were the equivalent of showing a true liking towards someone, but as I’ve gone through life (and I’ve learned that people aren’t always true to their feelings), my sentiments have changed.
These days, I’m kind of cynical about people who are excessively polite whenever we’re around each other. I can’t help but feel a little sketch when someone goes above and beyond to flatter me every chance they get.
I’m specifically referring to those who tend to shower you with compliments and tell you exactly what you want to hear like, ALL the time. It’s hard to decipher whether they’re genuine or whether they’re just full of it.
You also have those people who are extra cautious with their words for the sake of “avoiding hurt feelings.” While their intentions might be good and they may think that it’s a way to show kindness, I actually think that it’s kinder to give constructive feedback that helps others in the long run.
Politeness has its place and time. However, there are certain instances where it can be straight up problematic.
Insincere Politeness: The Downside of Playing Nice
Dita Von Teese said it best: “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” That can also pertain to individuals in your circle.
I get it. Politeness is taught. Many parents raise their children—girls, especially—to be kind and respectful towards others. It’s the ladylike thing to do. School officials teach us early on that we should treat others the way that we want to be treated.
When adulthood and the pressure to be seen as a success hits, people are more open to the concept of winning friends and influencing others.
A lot of people hate the idea of being seen as “the bad guy,” so instead of tackling relationship issues head on, they opt to hold things in and do what it takes to keep the peace. Again—I completely get it.
Here’s what’s problematic: politeness that stems from a place of deceit or insincerity (a.k.a, “fake politeness”). A form of passive-aggressive behavior, fake politeness is just as bad as nice-nastiness. It’s not only deceptive, but it can also enable the bad behavior of others around you.
Finding Balance Between Politeness & Honesty
Why go through the motions of saying compliments that you don’t mean, or overextending yourself to someone that you’re not really checking for?
I live by the principle that you should say what you mean and mean what you say. If you don’t have anything nice to say, then you shouldn’t say anything at all. That applies to my actions as well.
Am I saying that you shouldn’t be civil with individuals you aren’t fond of? Absolutely not. There are certain environments where it’s necessary for you to coexist with people you don’t like (work being an example).
What Genuine Politeness Looks Like
If you watched American Idol in its earlier days, then you know that the judges were a major topic of discussion.
Many people LOVED Paula. She’s sweet, mild-mannered, and she’s a pro at offering feedback in a way that preserves her “nice girl” image.
Simon? Not so much. He is ruthless with his honesty and he has no filter whatsoever. Whether it hurts others’ feelings or not, he’s not afraid to tell his raw and uncut opinion on things.
Paula and Simon are on opposite sides of the “politeness” spectrum. One is extremely polite and the other is extremely honest. However, the show wouldn’t have been what it was without their differing dynamic.
I wanted to be more like Paula than Simon growing up. Nowadays, I would rather be somewhere in the middle. I admire Paula’s grace and poise, but I also respect Simon’s frankness and transparency.
Many women fear the possible repercussions of being as blunt as Simon, like being labeled as “mean and hateful,” or not having many friends.
I understand this point of view. Then again, politeness that comes from an insincere place isn’t really that…polite. It’s actually two-faced. That’s why it’s important to be intentional with your polite gestures and behavior.
Genuine politeness is a balancing act between empathy, civility, and honesty. You can master the art of this by giving grace to everyone around you, but also being selective about who is on the receiving end.
When NOT to Be Polite
I believe that you should show politeness towards those who are deserving of it. When someone makes you uncomfortable, approaches you in a rude and unpleasant manner, or displays toxic behavior of some sort, politeness can signal to them that it’s okay to mistreat you without consequences.
This only enables them to keep the toxicity going in your relationship, which can cause damage to your mental health and self-esteem.
Respect is earned at the end of the day. If people aren’t worthy of your respect, then it shouldn’t be given out freely.
Use wisdom when dealing with toxic people—especially if they’re verbally or physically abusive. While killing people with kindness may have its benefits, it’s not the wisest thing to do in certain cases.
Quit Faking the Funk
When someone rubs you the wrong way, you shouldn’t feel obligated to overcompensate them with politeness. Don’t allow these people to run all over you and treat you like a doormat.
It’s great to show politeness, but just as great to be transparent with your feelings and assertive in regards to the behavior you will and won’t allow.
Johnaé De Felicis is a writer, wanderer, and wellness junkie from California. She covers a variety of topics that are relevant to the health and wellness space, from mental health to natural living.