Try out a politeness policy and you may have a lot to write home about
Vol 0 | Issue 1
I find that people are generally rude these days. The other day three people were rude to me in as many hours and I wondered what the world was coming to. First my bank teller delayed me by over an hour and didn’t find the debit card I was supposed to collect.
I had received a message on my cell phone stating that it was ready and I had to collect it .I go all the way and the guy tells me that probably his head office was wrong.
Next a guy on a bike nearly runs me down and when I shrug my shoulders and throw my hands in the air he sticks out his middle finger and curses me.
And finally I go and sit in a cafeteria and order coffee and the waiter brings me tea. Ad he literally shoved it in front of me without a word.
Now I am no doormat and so I let these people have it back. But when I saw the rude waiter storm back to the kitchen and let the master have it, I regretted my bad temper. He got it from me and so he was proceeding to do exactly the same thing to someone else.
I thought of my mom who had very often schooled me on the power of good manners early on. When faced with a rude salesgirl, my mom would pat the woman’s hand, compliment her dress and apologize to her for bothering her –which inevitably led the salesgirl to hurry and get what my mom wanted.
“You catch more flies with honey than with Vinegar,” my mom always said. I wondered if that was really true .I decided I would try. For one week I would be as sweet as honey especially with people who seemed determined to make me lose my cool. I would disarm them with charm and see if my improved attitude would have any effect.
DAY 1: I BANK MY ANGER!
I never want to go to my bank. It always has long lines and to make matters worse there is a belligerent clerk who works there. And sure enough, while I am waiting, I hear her barking angrily at a customer. Then, my turn comes. I gather up my courage and step up to the counter.
“Hi,” I say in my most pleasant voice. “How are you?” She scowls. Clearly I have already overstepped her boundaries. I persist in my politeness experiment, scanning the photo of a beautiful girl on a frame in her desk.
“Is that your daughter?” I ask sweetly as she takes my cheque!
To my surprise the clerk she says, “yes.’ And the real shocker, she breaks into a wide smile. The transformation is amazing - and all it took was one polite question that acknowledged her as an individual. Score one for mum’s advice!
The after glow of this first encounter lingers until I am driving home and a driver cuts me off at an intersection. Experiment forgotten I let him have it.
DAY2: I RETHINK THE ANGRY RANT
I’m driving and suddenly my car is making a sound like a spatula slapping a counter. I get out, look at the flat tire and drive to a nearby petrol bunk. The mechanic says he will have it fixed in an hour.
When I call back an hour later he admits he hasn’t even touched my car because he has been swamped all morning long.
I feel my blood start to boil. I should have taken it to my usual guy, instead of trusting this idiot. I could have arranged for someone else to pick up my daughter from work if I’d known it was going to take this long.
I’m about to launch into a rant when I take a deep breath and change tactics. “I’m sorry you’re having a crazy day,” I tell the mechanic. “I hate to rush you,” I apologize. “It’s fine; really I can call around and get someone to pick up my daughter from work. When do you think I might be able to get the car?”
There is a brief silence. Then, he says he’ll put my car on the lift right away. “I’ll have it done in 20 minutes,” he promises. “I’m sorry you had to wait.” He hangs up
Was that an accident or are good manners contagious?
DAY3: I SWALLOW MY ROAD RAGE
It’s the end of a long day and I have one more call to make at the supermarket. This requires a right turn across oncoming traffic, and drivers in idling cars are blocking the entrance to the lot where I need to park.
I don’t blow my horn. I just sit there.
And a funny thing happens. First; a driver pulls up to leave enough room for me to enter the parking lot. After that not just one but two drivers back up so I can make my right turn. And all of them are smiling. I smile, wave, smile, wave. All of them wave back.
Is this manners karma or what?
DAY4: I COUGH UP A NICE WORD
At a meeting a surely colleague is clearly upset that nobody read his report. I tell him that I know how frustrated he must feel .The man visibly melts. After the meeting he explains how hard he worked on the report and confesses that he doesn’t think he’s a good writer.
He looks slightly unabashed as he adds.” I write poetry.”
Suddenly I can see this man for what he really is - a wannabe poet. My heart goes out to him and I try to think what might help.
“Without your reports nobody would know what’s going on,” I tell him. “They’re important . . . It’s just too bad that we’re all so overwhelmed these days, isn’t it?”
He agrees. We end by shaking hands. “Keep writing your poetry,” I add. He brightens.”Thanks,” he says.
DAY5: I DON’T TELL OFF A TELEMARKETER
A Solicitor for a charity calls as our family sits down to eat dinner. Generally I bark at these people to take us off their call lists and slam down the receiver before they can even start to reply. But this night I say, “thank you for doing the hard work of raising money for such a good cause.”
The caller falls silent, momentarily derailed. She thinks I am pulling her leg. I keep talking. “I’d like to contribute but right now I have a prior commitment. Once I am through with that, I promise that you’ll be the first in line for a donation. I really appreciate your efforts.”
The caller sputters, and then says, “Oh, well, thank you, have a good night.” “You too,” I say.
The conversation only took 30 seconds longer than my usual hang –up, but I went back to my dinner feeling all Zen instead of irritated.
DAY6: I GET AN “A” FOR APPRECIATION
I enter a store where I have to return something without a receipt .The clerk is standing beneath a sign that reads “No receipt no return.”
I notice her necklace as I approach. She raises her hand and touches it, noticing me watching it. The necklace is a cross. “I love that necklace,” I comment as I approach the counter.
Then I tell her about my dilemma. “I am afraid I bought these pants without trying them on ,and it turns out that they don’t fit at all .Could you please exchange them ?”
When she smiles and says yes, I make another note to self. People really do warm to you when you notice them and appreciate their efforts, whether they’re changing a tyre or wearing something special. As I leave the store I feel surprisingly serene.
DAY7: I MAKE TWO NEW FRIENDS
On the last day of my experiment I head out to the Subway @Nungambakkam. This place is a battle ground. Virtual office workers with laptops constantly vie for the best tables. They set up like sqatters, buying office space for the price of a coffee or ice cream. I know this because I’m one of them!
I score a much coveted piece of real estate – a central table away from the door. I spread out my papers and sip my coffee, happy and warm. Then two women loaded down with shopping bags come in and search the place.
There are no tables left, alas, just the counter .And I wonder- is it good manners to offer them my seat, even if they’re just shopping and I really am working? I ponder this for a split second.
The only way to find out is to do it: “Why don’t you take my table and I’ll move to the counter?” I ask. The women are startled. They protest, uncertain, casting their eyes about the room for another option. There isn’t any. Finally they agree. I move to the counter which as I suspected, is too narrow to work on, though I manage.
Ten minutes later someone gently taps me on the shoulder. It’s one of the women. The other one has snagged the only free window table and is holding it for me.
“We thought you should have it because you’re so nice,” the woman tells me –and we’re all smiling.
Try this politeness policy like me and write me your experiences!
Samuel Eddy is a Chennaite based in Maryland, USA. He is passionate about conserving the environment and leaving it a better place for future generations. He can be contacted at [email protected]