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Good etiquette facilitates relationships, and good relationships help us live better lives. We've previously discussed proper manners in communications. Continuing in our etiquette and manners series, let's discuss politeness.

If we say that etiquette is your outside or social "polish" for being polite, then politeness would be the expression of inner-virtues. Thus, true politeness would be found inside of you (your heart?) while outward forms of etiquette will vary everywhere and depend upon context. In that sense, whereas etiquette is the outward expressions following the current rules of "good" society, politeness is more about who you are - inside - as a person.

For example, in Arab countries, it is considered offensive to show the sole of your shoe because it is considered dirty from being on the ground and from its association with the lowest part of your body. As a result, it is rude to cross your ankle over your knee when speaking with someone else because it will show the sole of your shoe. In other words, someone can be good-in-heart while being ignorant of the cultural norms of a particular society.

Yes, rudeness will repel while courtesy will attract friends. However, being polite isn't a mere ceremony seeking only its own ends. (If it is, it's hypocrisy and deceit.) Politeness is grounded in pure, noble feelings for the good of humanity. How we treat others, including those with whom we disagree, is a reflection of who we are. Being polite is also self-reinforcing as it improves our sense of dignity.

When you are polite, others will feel more at ease. This helps them act more freely in social settings. Although it's always warming when someone grants us a favor, refusing a favor with polite regard will remove much of its bitterness.

Is politeness a fundamental virtue? In what contexts is politeness appropriate? For example, if justice means to be fair and assign to those what is merited, can politeness be reconciled? Can justice be administered while still being polite? How often is politeness a mask to conceal our non-virtuous selves, or to hide our true emotions, thoughts, and impulses? Why is politeness considered "good?" Can politeness exist where there is selfishness or brutality? When, if ever, is it proper to be discourteous? Are rules of etiquette deceptive? What are the rules of a polite society?

Summary of etiquette and manners for being polite:

  1. Follows the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would others should do unto you."

  2. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

  3. Have a sincere desire to give pleasure to others.

  4. Express sincere feelings.

  5. Try to ignore the defect in others.

  6. Be prudent.

  7. Be discreet.

  8. Be reserved.

  9. Be frank.

  10. Meet rudeness from others with perfect politeness (which will shame those who have been uncivil to you).

  11. Extend politeness to the lowest and meanest.

  12. Be polite at all times and in all circumstances.

  13. Do not speak with the intention of hurting another's feelings.

  14. Do not attempt to make others uncomfortable.

  15. Set others around you at ease.

  16. Be self-sacrificing, unselfish, and friendly.

  17. Be true in your word and deed.

  18. Teach others how to show gentle courtesies.

  19. Never by word or action notice the defects of another.

  20. Be charitable.

  21. Remember that the laws of politeness require consideration for the feelings of others.

  22. Never meet rudeness with rudeness.

  23. Do not show resentment. Throw back the "arrow."

  24. Let your actions be easy and dictated by the heart.

  25. Be polite at all times and under all circumstances.

Introduction to The Ladies' Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness (by Florence Hartley)


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on May 21, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=559

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