Intsiksiomai's Blog

Condescendingly Polite

Posted on: September 16, 2010

Dictionary.com has a funny way of giving synonyms to the word “polite”.  Some of the synonyms used are condescending, conciliatory, diplomatic, punctilious. On the other hand,”respect” had synonyms of esteem, regard, honor, value.

People keep interchanging these 2 different concepts. It’s just frustrating to keep correcting people about it.

When we say “please” or “excuse me” to strangers or servicemen, when we say “po” or “opo” and help old people cross the street, when a gentleman opens the door to a lady, when we accommodate old people, that’s just mere POLITENESS.    The most that we can demand from others if we want to be treated in a nice way is also just mere politeness. One can NEVER RESPECT AN OPPOSING OPINION, until it ceases to be opposing and someone finally agrees or becomes convinced.  We may have religious tolerance, but we can never respect the person’s different religious conviction.

People are polite for different reasons.  Fear is often a motivating factor of politeness, especially if politeness is directed towards people with power, higher positions, or older grouches.  I also quite agree with the funny synonym condescending as a motivation for politeness.  We tend to be careful not to hurt the feelings of service crews and maids so we give them extremely polite orders.  The polite manner in which we address them is contrasted with the act of ordering them around.  In some cases, some snooty people just want to display an air of sophistication by being extremely polite to others they consider lower in status.  They just want to display their polishness more than really liking anybody in the party. Men are afraid to be rejected by women so they also act gentlemanly not out of respect, but to ensure that they won’t be rejected by women/potential preys.  Society has brainwashed us to treat old people with respect.  Again, treating them in a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean the esteem, regard, high valuation are there.  In many cases, it’s pity, guilt, and fear of criticism that we feel, mistaken as “respect”.

I’m not dissuading anybody to be polite.  I’m just here to clarify, distinguish, and make aware. In terms of gradient of motivation, polite  can be from negative to neutral to positive, while respect is always positive.  No more misnomers. Don’t get flattered over politeness.

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