The Power of Politeness

For quite a while now, we’ve heard many public figures, like Rush Limbaugh and comedian Bill Maher express scorn about people who are politically correct. Maher even gave his show the very funny title “Politically Incorrect.” Terms like “the PC police” were used to laugh at people who were perhaps a bit strident about defending the rights of small groups of people. The hip-hop “gangsta” culture has been anything but PC.

Now, I see many fundamentalists using that term and others to deride those who are considerate of and careful not to offend people of other faiths.

To me, political correctness is simply a way to be considerate, and I am proud to be caring. Politeness and sensitivity are not held in high esteem in the media these days. Many media spokespeople, stars and commentators, “gangsta” rappers, nasty radio talk show stars and “edgy” comedians, as well as personalities like the judges on talent reality shows and certain game show hosts, achieve success by putting people down and making fun of them. Janet Jackson may not have been polite or judicious in her Super Bowl exposure, but neither are the athletes, the fans or the commercials, so it all seemed the same to me, and it’s one reason why I don’t enjoy watching TV sports.

Yet, recently I notice the people who have always been kind and pleasant, like game show host Regis Philbin and talk show hosts Ellen Degeneres and Jay Leno seem to be rising to the top. Could it be, after all, that being polite might win out over being “in your face” and “edgy”?

There’s no accounting for media taste, it seems to sink to the lowest common denominator at least as often as it rises above the average. But, in your personal life, politeness, consideration and caring will always be more successful than any other way of treating others.

Politeness and consideration are powerful. We all want to be liked, to be cared about and to be treated gently. We’re human, so we don’t always succeed in behaving our best. But, the more kindness and consideration we send out, the more returns to us.

Rules of etiquette exist because to create civilization, we need boundaries. The rules of polite behavior may sometimes feel restrictive, but when people use them, they make new and awkward situations more comfortable. Etiquette is just a prescribed way of being polite and considerate to others. As we get to know each other better, we can relax the rules, but keeping the attitudes of consideration and respect guarantees a more successful connection.

Guidelines for being better understood.
1. Seek first to understand. If you know the other person’s frame of reference, you can speak to him/her within it.

2. Pay attention to how your words are landing. If your companion’s response looks off the mark for what you said, check out what he/she is hearing....

3. Switch from problem to solution as quickly as possible. Focus on the problem only long enough to understand it—then move your attention to finding a solution that would work for everyone, rather than who’s right or wrong.

4. Separate emotion from solution. If one or both of you are upset, irrational or reactive, you aren’t communicating. Take a break and try again in a few minutes, when both of you have calmed down.

5. Don’t beat dead horses. If you’ve been over the same ground several times with no forward movement, get some help. An objective third party can work wonders.

6. Be nice. Strive to create a cooperative atmosphere, and consider the other person’s feelings.

7. Remember, “what goes around, comes around” and consider how you’d like to be treated before reacting to someone else.
(Adapted From It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction © 2004 Tina B. Tessina )

Author Bio:
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California, with over 25 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 11 books, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page 2003) How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page 2002) The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley 2002) and The Real 13th Step: Discovering Self_Confidence, Self_Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page 2001) She publishes the “Happiness Tips from Tina” e-mail newsletter and is an online expert, answering relationship questions at www.CouplesCompany.com and Yahoo!Personals. She is also a Redbook Institute expert. Dr. Tessina guests frequently on radio, and on such TV shows as “Oprah”, “Larry King Live” and ABC news.

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