Being courteous is very important for our social and business lives. But sometimes it can bring us or the other people pain. The essential rule of being polite is to show respect. But we tend to feel a thin line between being respectful and becoming a soft target for all the bad in this world or conversely, being rude.
At Bright Side, we’ve made a list of habits only remarkably polite people have.
1. They let the host sit first, and they never sit last.
As a part of business etiquette, it is considered polite to remain standing until your host has taken their seat. If there is no host, then you should not sit until the most senior person at the table sits. But if you’re the youngest employee in a meeting or a conference, you don’t have to wait for everyone else to sit. This behavior might be inconvenient to others and be interpreted as “a wish to stay in the circle” which isn’t always so good for your career.
2. They agree to help, but don’t let people walk all over them.
Politeness means having respect, but to respect others, you should first learn to respect yourself. It’s nice to give a hand here and there and to be an effective employee, but don’t convert into a “yes man”. People will just consider you to be weak and force you into to saying yes, even if you refuse to do something. They will try to pile up work on you even if you’re already loaded.
3. They give advice when asked, but they never decide for you.
This refers mainly to ordering for someone in a restaurant or deciding something for a person when they should be deciding it for themselves. Yes, it’s polite to help when asked. Especially, if the person asks you to choose for them. But you should do it gracefully. Polite people always remember that what is right for themselves may not be right for others. And they always allow the other adult to order for themselves, so they won’t feel embarrassed.
4. They know how to listen without offering advice.
Friends and colleagues tend to vent to others about their problems, but it doesn’t mean any advice should be given. Advising someone about their life can usually come off as being judgmental. Polite people never judge other people, cultures or anything else. They realize they aren’t perfect either. If you want to be polite, you should keep your advice to yourself unless it’s solicited — because sometimes people just want to vent.
5. They give compliments, but never about someone’s appearance.
Complimenting a colleague’s working skills or your partner’s achievements is part of the “business code”, but you should never compliment or comment on one’s appearance, weight loss, etc. Not all people are ready to receive such compliments and often it just makes them feel self-conscious. A polite person should never compliment another person’s appearance unless it’s their best friend or mother.
6. They’re great hosts, but they never clear the table too early.
This is something a lot of us do. It sounds quite polite to clear off the table while people are still eating in order to get dirty dishes out of the way. But some etiquette experts claim that this habit can stress people out. It looks like you want your guest to hurry up and leave. It’s better to wait until the guest has finished their meal or replace the empty dish with a new one. This is something some waiters should note for themselves as well.
7. They are very communicative, but they never nod in agreement if they can’t hear their company.
It’s very important to keep the conversation going, especially when you’re at some kind of a networking event. But no matter how loud and crowded it is, you should never pretend to hear what someone said if you didn’t. Even if it seems like the other person hasn’t noticed you faked a reaction, they did. Even though we’re trying to be polite when we do this, we’re only distancing people from ourselves. It’s better to ask questions, clarify, and show interest in the conversation. Show you care a little.
8. They know arriving late to a party is bad, but they don’t arrive early either.
Even if it sounds unbelievable, arriving early to an event to help people who haven’t asked you to is not very polite — it’s actually just as rude as arriving late. Your good intentions might get in the way and surprise your host before they’re ready to host you. This can prove to be quite awkward.
Yes, it’s very polite to chat with your new co-workers or people you’ve just met — it makes you friendly and open to contact. But you should never share your life story with them. It can make people mistrust you. A remarkably polite person should be a master of social jiu-jitsu. It’s the ancient art of getting other people to talk about themselves without getting into your own personal life’s details without them noticing.
9. They are masters of small talk, but they don’t get too personal.
10. They are friendly, but they never touch, hug, or sit too close.
Even if you think that patting someone on the shoulder or forearm is extremely friendly and polite — it’s not. Polite people wait for the other person to establish “the touching” rules. They don’t touch unless they are touched first. This is because many people feel uncomfortable being touched by a stranger. Remember to stay a polite distance away from your colleagues and partners (about one arm’s length). But if you really can’t do without a little touch here and there, don’t forget to ask first.
11. They maintain eye contact, but they never stare.
Maintaining eye contact is the most polite, nonverbal message you can send others. Not enough eye contact can make you seem untrustworthy. But if the other person doesn’t even glance at you, trying to make an eye contact with them will just look like you are staring. And every child knows that it’s not polite to stare.
12. They hold doors, but don’t exaggerate.
Letting a door shut on someone is quite rude, isn’t it? That’s why it’s a common courtesy to hold doors open for others — but not always. It all depends on the distance between you and the person you’re holding the door open for. If the person is right behind you, then you should not close the door, but if the person is a whole kilometer away, then waiting for them might be quite awkward. You should always be aware of this thin line and rely on your inner comfort zone detector.
Do you have any people in your life that seem to be very polite, but actually get a rise out of you? Share it with us in the comments below.
Illustrated by Ekaterina Gapanovich and Natalia Breeva for BrightSide.me