politeness and civilized society | INFJ Forum

politeness and civilized society


Oct 27, 2009
just how important is being polite in modern society? was talking to my boyfriend about this and it made me wonder.. most of the world lives in big cities now, with the majority of the inhabitants being strangers to each other. if most of us weren't generally 'nice' to each other, we'd probably have a lot more conflict. eddie ezzard made a joke about how in british culture people can be dignified to each other while still hating their guts... is this the mark of a civilized society?
more to the point, if you are a nice person, do you expect people to be nice to you? nice in this context is being stereotypically polite, like holding open the door for people, or saying please and thankyou, etc. of course exactly what is expected varies from culture to culture, but there is a base level of etiquette expected in every society.
my bf mentioned it was the little things that really matter, helping old ladies across the street, telling people the time or directions if they ask for it - if you don't do that, then the whole thing becomes a sham. I didn't really understand what he meant, it seemed trivial to me, but maybe he has a point? where would we be without this basic level of civility? what kind of society would we be a part of - what values would we deem important, if we didn't consider it important to treat our fellow human beings with a modicum of dignity and respect, regardless of our own feelings towards them? or is it dishonest.. in a way, to treat people kindly when your BELIEF doesn't accord with your actions ie. if you don't genuinely like them, is it wrong to be kind to them?

just a bunch of q's on my mind.. as usual. would love to hear your input guys :)
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I think that when it boils down to it politeness tends to be more apparent in areas with a lower population density. My reasons for this are as more people are thrown together into smaller spaces the chances of being taken advantage of seem to increase with the amount of bad eggs. Obviously there are times when someone is being polite just for appearances, but I like to think there are more people that care about others than not.

If I lived in a world filled with impolite people I believe I would be even less likely to want to interact with anyone. I was taught to treat others as I wish to be treated and for the most part I do just that, if the area I grew up in differed greatly from what I was taught I likely would not feel this way now. High school obviously wasn't like this, kids are cruel and immature.

I guess if everyone wanted to be treated without respect and dignity then it would be dishonest to treat them otherwise, but how many people really want to be treated this way? I'd think a very small percentage. There are indeed some people I meet that I detest, but I still try to treat them as I wish to be treated...I guess in the hopes that they pickup on how they are acting and maybe it'll help them find a balance in the long run. If we just perpetuated an endless cycle of uncivil behavior I imagine that eventually we'd turn completely apathetic to suffering and possess no more soul than the machines we build to do our labors. This sort of world I will not come back to.
I think it is less about politeness and more about contributing something to others.

People will put up with others that lack tact a lot of times if that person can still organize others and accomplish things. Common courtesy does go a long way in the work environment though. A lot of times you will only see the one higher in the hierarchy able to consistently be brash towards others.

Politeness is just a superficial layer on top of other stuff. Yea, it makes things 'look' nice, but you could either have a treasure or something rotten underneath.

You ever have that co-worker that constantly smiles at you and is so polite but underneath you know (s)he is screwing you over, (s)he is full of shit, and there isn't anything you can do about it? That is probably one of my least favorite social interactions.

What what point does the realm of politeness stop and the realm of morals/ethics take over?
I think for day-to-day interactions, it is important to be polite. I mean, no one can expect from others what they are not willing to give themselves, and God knows this world needs a bit more compassion.

People who do polite actions even in cities and interactions where they don't necessarily need to keep up appearances are often happier. Politeness can be seen as that superficial stuff that we do because we're supposed to or good deed for the sake of it. You have to go out of your way to hold open a door or help someone with something; people that are more willing to do the little things are often more willing to do bigger things.

That, and I know that life seems a lot better when people are considerate. Little things really do go a long way.
I think that politeness is a matter of context (in the current world.) If we feel we must be polite, because the people around us are being polite, like during a formal meeting or dinner, then I think it is half genuine consideration for the mood presented and half acting.
The world has, over the decades, become much more casual. When people are casual with eachother, most of the time, it puts everyone at ease. Being casual is also less work and less thinking than constantly holding to the standards of politeness.
I stand sort of in between. Where I appreciate etiquette when it's genuine, I think it can be a bit much. When you hold yourself to a high standard of etiquette when the people around you are being casual, you'll likely come across as snobby, regardless of your intentions (unfortunately for those who grew up learning to act in this manner out of the goodness of their hearts.) But there's also a point where being casual comes across as being lazy, sloppy, and selfish.
I guess the middle ground is to be considerate, compasionate, and unselfish. Putting other people's needs above your own shows that you're genuine, and have no self centred motives. If people can act as examples of this kindness, maybe we can become a more civil society.
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I believe that the Victorian Politeness, even to your social inferiors and enemies, is the hallmark of civilised society.
Society seems to be turning in on itself. The next time you are in public notice how so few seem to be smiling. Notice how many refuse to return a smile in return for your smile. Some will return that smile, but many give me the feeling that I am intruding into their lives by even noticing them in the first place.

I think Society is like a coin with two sides. We get instantaneous news and entertainment, great electronic goodies, incredible cars, lightning fast computers, etc. but we lose sight of the little things than make life nice. We are in too big a hurry, or so deeply thinking of our individual problems to even think about others, let alone be polite to them. On the other hand, there are still many fine and genteel people out there. It's just that the truly dis-intrested and rude folks leave such a bad taste in our mouths.
i work in a customer service role in a large and very popular retail outlet in my city and even though i only get paid minimum wage it's extremely important that i express highly refined and polished etiquette all of the time. if my manners are perfect i can get a genuine smile from a customer but if they are less than perfect it's more likely that i won't even get a thankyou. although the store is always very busy and i always have more work than i can do, customers generally expect a special performance. i find it challenging to meet all the intricate standards of etiquette in this culture and i often get it wrong. i've taken very cruel treatment from customers over slips in etiquette that i would have previously considered minor, when i was actively performing to the best of my ability. i think the fact that imperfect manners can become an excuse for someone to rage at a shop attendant says something about the importance with which they are viewed.
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