POLITENESS (and how the world is changing)

For quite a while I have been thinking about writing a few words in a blog about the word: politeness. It seems to be something which is disappearing from society at an alarming rate. Why? I will try and explain.

Let’s start with the official definition from the Oxford English Dictionary


A noun: behavior that is respect and consideration of other people

Hmm, that is food for thought isn’t it?

Probably a lot of you (or even the majority) who read this blog will be thinking that you are polite. That will be basically correct because we have all, hopefully, been brought up this way. But because society in general places such huge demands on us right now, often simple ‘norms and values’ are pushed to one side. Mainly because of the pace of life. But is it an excuse? No of course not. 

It really does not take much effort to be polite. A simple ‘please and thank you’ or saying ‘good morning, afternoon or evening’ to people. How much effort does that actually take?

One of the worst areas where politeness seems to have flown out of the window big time is in the shops. When was the last time you asked for help in a shop recently to find something? My own experience was in the local DIY Gamma store, a few weeks back, when making an enquiry about wall paint. A young girl, with her phone in hand of course, sitting behind the ‘enquiries desk’, eventually looked up after I had been standing there for a couple of minutes. I asked her if the latest trend color for 2020 was available in smaller cans. I was quite amazed when she eventually replied: why do you want to know? For goodness sake: maybe because I want to buy a can and only need one liter instead of five. Eventually after you have done several rounds of the shop, you find someone who can help.  Problem solved but the frustration of how unhelpful people can be leaves a ‘sting’ in the whole experience.

Another totally irritating thing is when you are perhaps queueing in the local shop to pay and they pick up their phone and start a conversation. You were of the impression they were actually helping you. This happened to me the other day in the bakers. I was about to pay and the girl behind the desk suddenly picked up the phone and took note of an order for another customer. Perhaps it might have been more polite to ask them to wait a moment and finish off the transaction with me first? Is that so much to ask? It seems so!

I noticed to that people rarely add the word ‘please’ when they ask for anything. Or ‘thank you’ when they actually receive what they have asked for. It is a sad reflection on the times that we are all so incredibly busy, usually with our mobile phones, to remember the politeness we have all be taught. 

There is such an incredible difference when you go shopping Stateside. I have been many times to both the USA and Canada and believe me the assistants in shops are so helpful, it is almost mind blowing. Nothing is too much trouble and why? Well, because they all work with a minimum salary and receive commissions on sales. That must be the best incentive ever to be polite and helpful. It is such a refreshing change when going into a store and asking for something that first of all, you get a reply and they are helpful to the moment you leave the store. One of my experiences in New York several years ago was in the Sephora Shop on 5th Avenue. My son was looking for something special by Jean Paul Gaultier. They did not have it in stock, but in the time we were in the store, they had arranged for it to be collected from another store and brought by taxi. I mean, how amazing is that?

Another thing I really like Stateside is the idea of a personal shopper/helper. Not that I am incapable of making up my own mind, but when they wander around with you, they come up with helpful suggestions about maybe trying another product or saying that this product is better than another, or even what is on offer. They carry around your basket to the cash desk and then often give you a goody bag of free samples too. Again, this experience was in the Sephora store and even though it’s is quite some time ago, I remember it well and the impression it made on me.

In general, Stateside and in Canada people are so much more friendly than in Europe. This is just a generalization because of course, there are polite people here too, but the difference is so noticeable.

So, isn’t it about time as we step into a new decade to maybe reflect a little bit on this subject? It is really the minimum we can expect of each other isn’t it? Politeness. One of life’s normal things. It would be so much more pleasurable if you encountered more politeness in so many walks of life.

Try it! Next time you go into the shops, perhaps say ‘Good Morning’ you will probably be shattered by the look on their faces. Let’s stop being on the phone when in shops. You do not need to be having a conversation with anyone whilst you are standing at the cash desk. Phone people back when you are finished. Nothing is that urgent. Not to mention the fact that it is damned irritating when people are carrying on a phone conversation for all to hear. We are not interested are we?

That is one of the biggest issues at the moment, that we are so dependent on the fact that we have to be available for literally everyone 24/7. We don’t. Nothing is that urgent. And no one is indispensable. We all think we are, but we are not. I used to think this about myself too.

My idea was this morning, before I started to write this blog, was to create a clean slate and to step into the New Year with a fresh start. I had already been through my emails and deleted more than 3500, all of which I had read during the year, but just keep on file. Why? I am probably never ever going to read them again. Did the same with all the emails I have written to other people. Cleared the lot and my ‘in and out box’ is now empty! Hoorah.

Cleared my Instagram account too. Archived all the old posts ready to start afresh with new posts in 2020. Changed profile photos too.

Even though this may not be about politeness which was the theme of this blog in the first place, it is about my commitment to do things differently in 2020. I realize that big changes are coming and I want to be ready with that same clean slate, to completely go into the new energy and new times. Release a lot of old baggage I carry around. And a simple ritual like clearing out your email and other social media can be a very refreshing one. No more wading through piles and piles of irrelevant things anymore, and even better no more scrolling down and down to things in the past. As I often say, the past is gone, you cannot change it, you are in the moment of the here and now. Tomorrow is something we know nothing about and what may happen.

So, let’s all be ready for this and reflect on the idea about trying to update our ideas of what politeness means. I am willing to say, that if you do you will be pleasantly surprised how things seem so much better. Slow down, no one ever has told you that you have to race through your life at break-neck speed. What doesn’t get done today, can be completed tomorrow. Remember the word ‘deadline’ is so negative. Think about ‘lifeline’ and the energy turns around completely.

Have a clear out and get ready for 2020. 

Try politeness, see how the energy changes too.

Happy New Year!

Images: Google

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Jill Kramer

Hi! I'm Jill and I'm a passionate author of books, short stories, columns and blogs.

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