YOU WERE TRAINED FROM Day One to be polite
and attentive to the wishes of others because, of course, it
is the courteous thing to do. And when youre courteous,
people wont be upset with you as often and youll
avoid uncomfortable confrontations and awkward moments.
Its perfectly understandable that
parents would want their child to be polite. Parents dont
like to be embarrassed. Besides, they want to help the child
avoid being shunned by their peers. Being rude makes enemies.
So does being selfish.
So it is important for parents to
train their children to be courteous.
But there is also such a thing as too
much of a good thing. Courtesy and kindness can be overlearned
to the point where the person doesnt even know
what he wants any more where hell stand there and
listen to the worthless ramblings of an idiot who just likes
to talk, without the guts to be rude and excuse himself
because hes got better things to do.
Someone who has overlearned politeness
will be too easily persuaded by family members that such-and-such
is right and good, only to figure out later that its not
right and good for him, now that he thinks about it.
When you dont know what you want
when politeness dominates self-awareness other
peoples wants hold the floor for lack of opposition. They
win by default, as when two parties are scheduled for a hearing
and one of the parties doesnt show. The one who shows up
wins automatically by default.
Whats lacking when youre too
polite is a healthy level of selfishness. If youve been
trained from early on to suppress your own wishes, you may suppress
them right out of existence. And that doesnt benefit anybody.
This kind of unhealthy politeness only
happens in relation to others. Just about everyone can pursue
their own agenda when theyre by themselves. It is in
the presence of other people that the social inhibitions
laid down in childhood exert their powerful influence. What they
influence are our feelings.
Whats missing is a simple knowledge
of what we want, what we ourselves would like to see happen,
and the willingness to try to make it happen even when
someone else might not like it. And whats needed is the
willingness to say what we want.
If you are suffering from excess courtesy,
heres what to do: Start small. In little situations every
day, make small goals. Ask yourself What do I want here?
or What do I think would be the best thing to happen in
this situation? And then try to make it happen.
Inevitably, youll run into someone
else with a different agenda. This other person has a different
outcome in mind. She doesnt know about your goal. So you
need to let her know what you want.
Sometimes youll feel like youre
being rude. Sometimes the other person will think youre
rude. If, like you, shes been overtrained in courtesy and
undertrained in healthy selfishness, shell take up your
agenda and help make it happen, or at least she wont oppose
If, on the other hand, she is able
to say what she wants, the two of you can negotiate. One way
or the other, you need to know what you want and you must be
willing to speak up about it.
Know what you want and speak
up about it.