Why I’m Against Politeness
Politeness is not authenticity. As much as the two SHOULD be able to co-exist, politeness has the tendency to glaze over honest and consonant reflections of your judgments, motives, and capacity. The trouble is, to be truly polite, you have to be authentic. You have to be honest and forthcoming with your deficits, your desires, and your ability, and your intentions. You have to be open to improvements in all these as a function of interaction with another person. That’s true politeness. It is to be open to the influence of the other in a cultural sense.
As an educator, I am constantly made aware of this disconnect. I often see resistance to learning–a refusal to be uncertain while denying the process and tools I offer as professor. Many reasons exist for this, and I expect this phenomenon. What floors me everytime is the “politeness” that greets my challenge of this inertia. “That’s not politeness,” I want to scream. “That’s arrogance…unsustainable arrogance.”
My job as the best educator ever, is to move you from unsustainable arrogance to sustainable confidence. I need three things in order to accomplish this. First, I need your self-determination that you are willing to move as I direct. If not, know that this is arrogance–you just refused to move with a person you have hired to help you move. Second, I need you to own your deficits. If not, know that this is arrogance–you are content to pretend rather than work toward being. Third, I need you to share authentically what you want within the context of your worldview. If not, know that this is self-protection–you hold your SELF outside the scrutiny of others in order to maintain your pride and conceit.
The tendency of false politeness is to speak pleasantly while insisting on some combination of the following:
- Cover your flaws. You are not sure of your goal, destination, or motivation, but that should be beside the point in your mind.
- Obscure what it is you really want. Your desire may be looked upon as selfish or otherwise bad, so you keep it hidden.
- Deflect from your deficits in capacity. Blame the other for something she is not doing. Rather than evaluating your contribution, you spend energy pointing out what the other is not doing.
- Refuse to establish congruence between what you say and what you mean. Say it in jest. Mumble it under your breath. Tell it to someone other than the person that needs to hear it. Or, you express it in anger or frustration rather than committing to a conversation. Here you call someone to a higher standard, but you do not engage in an opportunity for mutual growth, only an insistence on what you want to gain.
This all extends from an unfulfilled sense of self. You may not think of yourself as worthless, but you do think you are somewhat unworthy. Fulfilled sense of self would breed confidence. Think about it for a moment. Honesty would agree that confidence is often perceived as a negative in human interactions. The challenge is that a fulfilled sense of self has not only the understanding of what you know and like to do. It also has the knowledge, sophistication, and capacity to translate uncertain concepts and situations into the language of what you know and like to do.
This translation is possible because you are confident in your goals AND committed to the process of achieving those goals. You may not know the how. In fact, it is more expedient that you not focus on the how. But, you know who YOU are. You are honest with your judgments, motives, and capacity even if they are unpopular and highlight your deficits, desires, ability, and intentions. You know that this authenticity allows you to seek and receive help to achieve the next step. You are open to allow me to share in your goals and process. Or, at least you are willing to allow me the chance to prove my worth as a guide along your journey.
True Confidence and Intelligence
Cognitive flexibility, the ability to move with ease from one attractor to another is a hallmark of optimal intelligences. It is not vacillation between two ideas, but the ability to critically examine an idea on its merits EVEN if it is contrary to another strongly held idea. This is learning.
What I see among many instead is the tendency to argue vehemently outside the merits of the idea. They seem to stick to the argument as to a life raft on angry seas. They dare not venture into the water or the comparative improvement of a solid wooden boat for fear of losing the certainty of what they now float in.
Walking away disappointed, disposing of the relationship, refusing the conversation, fearing the argument, never risking being wrong is never committing to grow. You may have some Felecia ways, but that doesn’t make you a Felecia. Yet, when you give up saying, “I must be a Felecia,” you move into that realm. Instead of giving up, stay and discuss seeking to learn about the question at hand. Know that you may be ignorant of some facts, practiced in some unsustainable behaviors, and focused on insufficient goals. But, you are worthy of greater. You are willing to risk the embarrassment of growth. You are willing to put in the work based on a certain guide though uncertain about the process.