Are You Being Polite?

45ASDSome time back, an American friend of mine was telling me about her experiences traveling in India. During the course of her conversation she said, “The other day in Delhi I stopped to ask for directions from a biker. He took a lot of trouble to give me detailed directions. But, before I could thank him for his patience and time, he had zoomed off!”

She sounded aggrieved and rather annoyed that she hadn’t been able to express her gratitude to the random passerby. And therein lies a tale!

I do not want to generalize but I think that many of us, lack ‘good’ manners. This is not to say that we are not helpful or that we are extraordinary in that respect. The French, especially Parisians, are known to be very rude, particularly to tourists who do not know their language. And they are certainly rude to their British neighbors. Germans are known to be very dour and not very forthcoming in smiling a greeting or acknowledging one.

But for a very sociable and garrulous race as we Indians are, I am amazed that we fail to be polite to the people around us and with whom we interact on a daily basis. Politeness, it is said, is the courtesy of kings. I believe that we should make it our courtesy too. How much time does it take us to say ‘please’, ‘sorry’, ‘excuse me’ and a ‘thank you’?

Politeness in our Daily Lives

A couple of years back, there was a picture, which went viral, of Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan, saluting the security person at the office gate. The accompanying news item mentioned that this was Dr. Rajan’s usual practice.

Truly, tell me –

How many of you would thank a cab or auto driver for the ride?

How many of you remember to thank the waiter/server/cleaner in a restaurant?

How many of you even think that the people who work in our homes as cooks, drivers, or house-help merit a simple ’thanks’ at the end of their chores?

How many of you would thank the door attendant at a mall, hotel or restaurant?

How many of you acknowledge a motorist for stopping at an intersection and allowing us to pass?

How many of us stop and allow other motorists to pass with a friendly wave?

How many of us remember to thank our mothers for those daily meals she prepares?

How many of you would thank your parents when they drop you off at your college or place of work?


Yes, certainly, they are all just doing their duties or jobs and many of them are being paid for it too. However, why shouldn’t we still thank them? Why do we take these things for granted, that we fail to acknowledge it?

I have noticed that we are very bad at apologizing, most especially when we are on the road and behind a wheel. Somehow, our good manners just seem to fly out of the window as soon as we climb into our cars.

I have avoided confrontations on the road just by the simple expedient of saying, ‘I’m sorry’, irrespective of whoever was at fault. It does not make me a lesser or an inferior person, just because I happened to apologize first. On the contrary, it actually serves to cool down tempers, while time isn’t wasted in useless arguments trying to prove who was in the right and who was in the wrong.

Politeness at Your College

MBA aspirants take note – you have a good chance of impressing at the time of group discussions and interviews with your impeccable manners. Most candidates are usually too nervous at those times to pay much attention to the civilities, but remember it matters.

  • Greet the receptionist or the person who is co-coordinating arrangements with a smile
  • Remember to thank them too
  • Men, if there are lady candidates do remember to hold the door open for them and allow them to be seated first (we women are emancipated but we still appreciate chivalry!).
  • At group discussions, don’t jump in and interrupt other speakers. Let them finish speaking before you start to make your points
  • When you walk into the interview room, greet the panel with a smile
  • When they ask you to take a seat, say ‘thank you’.

Which brings me to the question – how many of you remember to thank your teacher at the end of a lesson? Do you think that they may feel that their efforts are being appreciated if you did that? Think about how you would feel if your professor thanked you for doing your assignment.

Politeness at Work

In the corporate world especially, there is very little of politeness, but it is a place, which has the most need of it. In the struggle for promotions, jobs, higher salaries people often forget that they are dealing with humans first – creatures with feelings. You may be stingy with praise, but that still should not stop you from saying a simple ‘thank you.’ Sometimes that may be all that is needed to boost somebody’s morale.

I used to work in a multinational company and one of my bosses was the toughest woman, yet the most polite that I have ever worked with. I found it quite pleasant and intriguing when she would thank all of us at the end of the day when we were leaving. Sometimes she would thank us for individual tasks done. She would also preface all her requests for work to be done with a ‘please, would you…..?”

One of the most polite industrialists that I have met is Ratan Tata, former chairman of the Tata Group. I have never heard him speak rudely to anyone, even if he is upset or irritated.

You may well ask – why should we say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’? Isn’t it enough to feel it? You may feel it, but does the other person know it? Unless you verbalize it, how will the other person know what you mean or feel?

Politeness is not merely words but a form of appreciation. It shows that you respect the feelings of others and that you are mindful of their sentiments and their efforts. It motivates and encourages them.

Politeness and good manners are guaranteed to win you friends and it is the easiest way to influence people – provided you do it sincerely. Whatever your role in an organization and at whatever level you start, politeness will make the way smoother for you, in addition to your other skills.

For those of you, who are on the threshold of a career, you should know that while your achievements and performance will win you admiration, tributes and accolades, good manners and a pleasant behavior will make you well-liked, loved and esteemed. People will like doing business with you; they will trust you; they will feel comfortable with you; they will want to ally themselves with you.

On that note, let me thank you for reading this blog!

Contributed By : Janaki Krishnan , An entrepreneur in the education and skills sector. Prior to this she was a business journalist. Writing continues to be her abiding passion.

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