Is Politeness out of style?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Polite child


15 Rules of Politeness.

Rudeness seems to be the new fashion and politeness may be headed for the endangered species list. Even if you are not one of those people who believe that politeness is inherently a virtue, you might want to consider the adage “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

One dictionary defines politeness as “behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people.” Respect and consideration may also be lost arts, but let’s focus on politeness for now. Politeness used to be considered an important virtue, a component of etiquette and good manners. Being polite was considered essential for setting others at ease and creating relaxed situations.

Some people are polite by being frank and honest, while others see politeness as being not-offensive and allowing others to save face. The essence of politeness is being pleasing rather than abrasive to those around you.

Traditionally, in America people were more polite to strangers than to their own family. Impolite language was used to assert that the speaker was superior to the listener. In this new millennium, some people seem to think that politeness is no longer needed.

Should you be someone who still thinks politeness has a value, or if you would like to use politeness in ways that would encourage more people to like you, here are fifteen ways to become an expert on politeness.

1. Watching your language is polite.

Avoid using language that would offend the person you are talking with. Especially watch out for emotionally charged or demeaning language. Do not use language that puts other races, religions or political positions down. Avoid derogatory statements about people, places, or other points of view.

2. Listen to them attentively.

Pay attention to what others say. Make sure you understand their point of view before expressing yours. It is more important to understand other’s points of view than to sell yours. Do not monopolize the conversation.

3. Show respect for others and their achievements.

Be willing to listen to them and their accomplishments. Do not feel the need to “one-up” everyone. Avoid bragging and bravado. Consider other’s opinions even if they differ from yours.

4. Polite people use jokes and humor carefully.

Do not use jokes to demean others or enlarge yourself. Show you know the boundaries of good taste.

5. Taking time for small talk is polite.

Politeness includes developing and strengthening relationships with others whether you want something from them or not. Polite people develop positive congenial relationships with others.

6. Be polite to those who work for you and those you work for.

Do not start thinking that you are superior to others and that you can reserve your politeness for your friends. Respect those who do work for you, or with you, regardless of their position.

7. Give genuine compliments, not backhanded ones.

Say, “you did a great job,” not “well you finally did something right.” Do not praise someone when they do what you want and revile them when they disagree. Polite people understand compliments are a gift of appreciation not a bribe for compliance. Keep your praise genuine.

8. Say what you can or will do.

Avoid focusing on what you can’t or won’t do. Emphasize the positive. Polite people do not focus on picking arguments. They seek consensus and agreement.

9. Be considerate.

Avoid self-centeredness. Polite people are not selfish. It is not all about you. Being considerate is not an act used for making people give you what you want. It comes from noticing what others need and helping them reach their aspirations.

10. Politeness focuses on the new.

Let go of the resentments from the past. Move on to the present. Polite people are not obsessed with getting even for past slights. Holding grudges poisons current relationships.

11. Notice the positive.

Be careful to avoid putting people down. Look for the good in everyone you meet. Faults and disagreements are easy for anyone to notice. The polite person sees the worth in everyone and seeks to maximize that positive.

12. Show appreciation whenever possible.

Do not complain, nag or berate others. Name calling is not a part of politeness. If you only appreciate those who totally agree with you, your circle of relationships with continue to shrink.

13. Let them finish talking.

Do not interrupt. Do not go off halfcocked and argue with things that were never said. Hear others out before launching into an argument.

14. Evaluate your ideas, not yourself.

Do not put yourself or others down. A person’s worth is not the sum-total of their bank account or their wins in life. Being wrong occasionally does not make a person worthless.

15. Think about other people’s needs and desires.

Avoid being selfish. Politeness includes the trait of thinking about others in addition to yourself.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at

For links to my Amazon Page, Recommended books, and private practice, please see – About David Joel Miller


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