Most of us practise good manners at key times, such as when meeting new people, and in formal settings. But what does it mean to live a life of politeness? Paul Ford writes on Medium how to be polite and the great benefits that practice has.
What I found most appealing was the way that the practice of etiquette let you draw a protective circle around yourself and your emotions. By following the strictures in the book, you could drag yourself through a terrible situation and when it was all over, you could throw your white gloves in the dirty laundry hamper and move on with your life. I figured there was a big world out there and etiquette was going to come in handy along the way.
[...]My ability to go to a party and speak to anyone about anything, to natter and ask questions, to turn the conversation relentlessly towards the speaker, meant that I was gathering huge amounts of information about other people.
Being polite — imagining there's a buffer around everyone — allows you to treat everyone equally:
People silently struggle from all kinds of terrible things. They suffer from depression, ambition, substance abuse, and pretension. They suffer from family tragedy, Ivy-League educations, and self-loathing. They suffer from failing marriages, physical pain, and publishing. The good thing about politeness is that you can treat these people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens. You don't have to have an opinion. You don't need to make a judgment. I know that doesn't sound like liberation, because we live and work in an opinion-based economy. But it is. Not having an opinion means not having an obligation. And not being obligated is one of the sweetest of life's riches.
That little distance politeness gives you, he concludes, buys everyone time to get comfortable expressing enthusiasm and warmth with each other.
The whole post is a wonderful read.
How to Be Polite [Medium]