Why it Pays to be Polite

Please. Thank you. You’re welcome. Excuse me. May I? As I was growing up, my dad put a strong emphasis on good manners. They were at the top of his list of things that would pave the way for success.

photo courtesy of sinclair.sharon28 at flickr.com

photo courtesy of sinclair.sharon28 at flickr.com

I am so pleased when I see good manners in children. A few years back, I watched a young boy introduce himself to a stranger by shaking his hand and saying, “It’s nice to meet you.” My heart was all a flutter. Sadly, it seems situations like these are becoming rarer nowadays. Not only are many children lacking good manners, but also more and more youth are entering adulthood seemingly without any grasp on how crucial it is to be polite.

How do we fix it? First off, it is much easier to prevent than to fix (like most things in life). As parents, we must model positive behaviors for our kids. Let’s also be sure to praise good manners in children (our own and others’).

I can’t help but smile when I witness an interaction similar to the following between my cousin and her young children:

Child: I want to go on the water slide again!
Mom: That’s not how you ask nicely.
Child: May I please go on the water slide?
Mom: No you may not. Thank you for asking nicely.

Her kids are some of the most polite children I know. They are grounded, patient, and appreciative. That’s no accident. It take persistence on mom and dad’s part to ingrain good manners into their children’s behavior.

Two great things happen when we’re polite:

  1. We are much more likely to get what we want when we’re polite.
    • In the instance above, the little girl may not have gotten to go on the water slide again, but her chances would have been slim to none if she had continued to be demanding.
  2. Not only are we more likely to get what we want when we’re polite, but also we’re more likely to continue to get it in the future, without even asking.
    • A few years back my husband became irritated with my missing the trash can in the bathroom. I’d quickly toss the tissue towards the basket and often miss. I’d shrug it off and continue what I was doing. A few times Jeremy snipped at me, “Stop leaving your trash on the floor.” I knew I was at fault, but I didn’t particularly care for the phrasing of his request. One day I asked him to please word it differently. After the first time he said, “Tricia, will you please be sure your trash makes it into the can?”, I picked it up, threw it in the can, and he never had to ask again.

Think about slipping a few more of those basic good manner words and phrases in your day to day conversations. Go ahead and overuse them. You’ll be a good example for your kids and others to follow. Your interactions with others will be friendlier, and you’ll get more of what you want when you want it.