Sunday, 18 November 2007

I'm sorry, but...

I consider myself to be a very polite person. I hold doors open for people, I always write thank-you letters after birthdays and Christmases and I am careful to say please and thank-you at every possible opportunity. I am often shocked by the poor manners displayed by some of the children that I teach in my capacity as a supply-teacher, and insist on politeness and mutual respect in the classroom.

I believe that manners maketh the man, and that good manners will ultimately do you a lot of good. For example, I'd like to think that it was my politeness and smiling banter with the check-in girl at La Guardia airport last week that was responsible for me moving up the list of passengers on stand-by for the earlier flight that I managed to get onto. It seems that it's human nature to be nice to people who are nice to you (and how I snickered - politely of course - at the surly businessmen sitting in the departure lounge, grumbling that they hadn't been put onto the earlier flight. Perhaps if you'd smiled I wanted to say).

Being a 'Brit Abroad' certainly seems to be a bonus too, much to my surprise. It seems as though as well as having a reputation for beer-swilling loutishness, there is also another stereotype of the British as being highly intelligent and well-mannered... a stereotype I'm more than happy to be labelled with! A Canadian told me recently that upon hearing a British accent he immediately mentally ascribed extra IQ points to the speaker - it seems that speaking the Queen's English has its benefits.

It turns out, however, that politeness also has a darker side... As I boarded the aforementioned flight to Toronto, I clutched my boarding pass and searched for my seat before noticing with dismay that someone was already sitting there.

"I'm sorry, but I think you may be sitting in my seat" I said.

The woman concerned proceded to huff and puff, and make a loud performance about finding her boarding pass in order to prove me wrong. When she realised that she had in fact made a mistake she continued to huff and puff whilst gathering up the belongings that she had spread all around her.



"I'm so sorry" I simpered.

She stood up and trod on my foot whilst moving to her correct seat.

"Oh, I'm sorry!" I said... and at that point had the kind of out-of-body experience more usually reserved for those on the verge of death. I looked down at myself, apologising profusely for a litany of things that weren't my fault and suddenly realised - there is such a thing as being TOO POLITE.




It continually surprises me that people can be very rude. I'm with Lynne Truss on this one with her astonishment at the 'utter bloody rudeness of everyday life'. (I share her views on punctuation too - and YES, I know the address for this blog should have an apostrophe in the contraction it's but apostrophes don't appear to be acceptable in website addresses). However, I am beginning to realise that some people's excessive politeness merely allows rude people to be even ruder without fear of reproach. Sometimes a little straight-talking might be more effective. If I had simply said "Ow! That's my foot!" when hatchet-faced-aeroplane-woman stood on it, perhaps she might have been jolted out of her grumpiness for long enough to apologise and realise that she was in fact speaking to a real person instead of some kind of idiot only capable of uttering the words "I'm sorry".

So here's my resolution. I'm going to start being just a little less polite. Not to the point of rudeness, but just enough to make sure that I'm not treated as a doormat. It'll be a difficult habit to break, but as the obsequious blandishments spring to my lips, I'm going to try to consider whether they're entirely necessary.

Thank you for reading my blog!

4 comments:

Kitchen Goddess said...

Excellent post Norm, well done & good luck with your new resolution.

I love reading your blog.

George xx

Sandy said...

I'm glad you are back from your trip so I can read more of your blog too.

I find myself saying sorry and apologizing when I have really no reason to.

Sarah said...

I completely agree! I'm amazed at how some people can be so automatically rude or dismissive.

Case in point: I was on a crowded tram once, and a lady carrying an instrument on her back kept hitting me with it (accidentally of course).

Me: Er.. excuse me, but your violin keeps hitting me.
Lady: Actually, it's a viola.

And she said it in such a tone that my immediate response was to say, 'oh sorry', when she was the one who should have apologised to me. I hate it when I do that! Oh well.

Hope the assertiveness is going well!

xox Sarah

p.s. Just discovered your blog, from Mr.XCooks! It's really cool!

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