Saturday, April 18, 2015

P is Politeness

Polite or Not-So-Polite

When you talk about politeness, I think the first thing that comes to most people's mind is saying, "Please" and "Thank You." Those are the basic things we try to teach our kids when they are young and build upon that as they get older. While what people consider polite behavior can vary from culture to culture and person and person, I think that most would agree that being polite is showing respect to another person during your interactions with them. However, that doesn't always happen. I think we all have examples of the indifferent sales person as well as a friend that says something insensitive. I know I, myself, had been guilty of this from time to time. Sometimes even with the best of intentions, the foot gets inserted into the mouth, and some not-so-polite things come out.

Have you ever said something that you wish you could take back or had something said to you that crossed the line into the not-so-polite area? I asked a few people for examples of not-so-polite behavior and here are some that they gave me.

I was wearing drawstring pants and on an elevator when a person said,
"When are you due?"
"I'm not pregnant."
"Yes, you are. I see your belly button."
"That's not my belly button, that's the tie from my drawstring pants. I'm not pregnant. I'm fat."

My mother had a brain scan because of visual migraines and when it was over, the doctor said,
"You have a beautiful brain for someone your age."
"What does that mean?"
"If you were in your 20's I'd be concerned, but for someone in their 60's, it doesn't look too bad."

To a coworker, "You are thin except for your hips."

Cheerleading sponsor to high school cheerleader, "I can't get over how bowlegged you are. Did your mother ever give you cod liver oil?"

Now for one of my own unfortunate foot-in-mouth stories.
I was back at work after having my first baby, not sleeping well, and overwhelmed with the new parent thing. I was talking to a coworker who said her mother had seven kids. I said, "Wow, how did she keep from going crazy?" She replied, "She didn't. She jumped off the Mississippi River Bridge."

After she said this, I was embarrassed and felt horrible because I hadn't meant to make light of a very serious subject. But sometimes it just happens even when there are the best of intentions.
(BTW, her mother survived and was able to get help.)

So tactless and not-so-polite things are going to be said. When one of them happens, I always think about what my mother told me when I was in school, "Remember the source and move on." Then I try to remember the polite and nice things that happen every day.



  1. A few years ago, I was at my parent's church and I confused a woman who spoke with me with another woman whom I had known; I asked after her husband, only to have her say that her husband had passed away. After she said that, I recognized her, but I felt very awkward about it. She was gracious and accepted my apology. It was very uncomfortable and certainly reminded me that I need to give grace to others because I have needed to receive it so many times in my life.

    1. That's a good point to remember when someone else says something insensitive to us, that we have done that same thing at some point in time.

  2. I'm certainly guilty of foot-in-mouth syndrome from time to time. Once CatMan & I were at a party and ran into an old friend. She'd never been thin, but had gained a lot of weight recently. Anyhow, we were talking politics & climate change (passions that we share) and bemoaning the fact that it's so hard to get people to act on something that they don't perceive as an immediate threat. I then made some unfortunate comment comparing climate change to the obesity epidemic - something on the order of "well, if we can't get people to eat better for the sake of their own health, how can we ever expect them to make radical lifestyle changes for the sake of future generations." CatMan jabbed his elbow into my side so hard that I think I still have a bruise! It just didn't occur to me that weight might be a sensitive topic for her, because no matter how much weight she'd gained, I guess I just couldn't see her as fat. I still feel bad about it though. Sigh.

    1. My mother in law used to say a lot of insensitive things and weight comments was one of them. It took a while before I realized that she really had a heart of gold, but didn't realize that what she was saying could be hurtful.

    2. Well, my mother was extremely obese, so it's fair to say that I ended up with some "issues" in that department. In my mind obesity equated to selfishness and mean-spiritedness, and since my friend was neither of those things, I just couldn't see her as "obese."

      Of course, I've stepped in it numerous ways throughout my life. Another epic fail was my freshman year in college when I was taking a "Roots of Western Civilization" class. We had to read creation myths of a whole variety of societies, and also the book of Genesis. Being raised by a pack of atheists, it never in my wildest dreams occurred to me that anyone might interpret the Bible literally. So when we were discussing it all in class, I referred to the book of Genesis as "Christian creation mythology."

      Well... turns out there were a few fundamentalist Christians from the deep south in that class, and you'd have thought I ripped a page out of the Bible, smeared mud on it and set it ablaze from their reaction! Seriously, I sorta feared they might actually do me bodily harm. My Jewish roommate thought this was all hilariously funny. I think she was just glad to have someone further out of the mainstream than she was, taking all the heat for once!

    3. As we know, kids don't see things in the same way as adults. When one of my sons was younger, he was trying to describe a woman from school. He didn't say she was fat or obese, he said she had the same shape at Matt's mom (who was rather round). So you not realizing your friend was overweight, was rather innocent and childlike (in a good way)--especially in terms of your mom.

      Sometimes, you can't say the right thing about religion even if you try because it is all based on faith and not logic. College is there for one to get an education in all kinds of areas, and I guess that the creation story day in class you learned more than just what the professor had intended.

  3. hahaha those are some funny not so polite example.
    I want to share mine. When I was pregnant to my son was bombarded with pimples. When my grandma found out I was pregnant she told me that I'm ugly and that I'm going to have a boy.

    1. I was bombarded with pimples everywhere too when I was pregnant. Who thought you could get pimples on you stomach? I have several stories to tell about that situation. Maybe another time.

      I guess that your grandmother was right about one thing--you did have a boy. Wonder what she would have said if you had had a girl?

  4. Occasionally my filter does not work properly, and what my verbal intent is does not match the actual words that fly out of my mouth. Case in point: One of my son's good friends is a lovely woman who was coming to our house when our granddaughter was in town. She wanted to see the baby, but could only come before a formal work event. She was dressed to the nines and her dress had a very finely powdered sheen to it. After she was gone we noticed a trail of the gold shiny stuff on the hardwoods, so I got it up and thought nothing else about it. Long story short, later that night another son came by and said something about the shine on the front porch. Later that week the woman called and apologized and said she had not realized her dress left a "glitter" trail. I told her no problem, but Son3 wanted to know when the stripper left. I am glad she knows me well enough to have not been horrified by me.

    1. I think that story shows that son #3 has inherited you good sense of humor. :)

  5. I love these! I have my moments but try really hard to edit my brain before I open my mouth, but I'm not always successful.

    1. I think none of us are entirely successful at editing what comes out of our mouth. That's why everyone has a story to tell.


What do you think?