You’re a polite individual. You say please and thank you, and treat people with decency and respect. However, for some reason this does not seem to have a positive influence on your social life – in fact, quite the opposite. You still feel awkward around your peers, tongue tied where others speak freely in social situations, and find the girls of your dreams walking straight past you, into the arms of the biggest jerk in the world.
Don’t worry. You’re not alone in your confusion. The difficulty you’re having comes from a misconception in what constitutes politeness itself.
Polite is not just what we generally accept it to be. There are, in fact, two forms of politeness.
The first is demonstrated in this exchange:
“Brenton, could you please pass me the salt?”
“Here you are”
“Thank you very much”
This exchange demonstrates the first type of politeness. Being polite by following socially appropriate conventions of what is generally understood as ‘politeness’. It is often referred to as Positive Politeness. The mistake that so many make is thinking that this is the only legitimate type of politeness. This though, is a mistake. Observe the following exchange:
“Oi, chuck us the salt”
“Get it yourself you lazy bastard”
“Shut up, chuck us the salt”
“No. Get some exercise and grab it.”
At first this seems rude. However, if the two individuals are just friends engaging in light banter, we understand that no offense is meant. In fact, they are actively being polite to each other. This is called Negative Politeness.
To be polite we show respect to those we address. The first scenario demonstrates that we respect a person through using language that identifies them as being considered worthy of respect.
The second type of politeness is more useful to those we are socially intimate with. It demonstrates that we respect an individual through the way in which we use their own language, and willingness to treat them with a casualness that defines them as an equal.
What, though, does this mean for you? This answer is: Lots.
When you are meeting new people, potential friends, potential romantic partners, you are looking to develop a relationship that is on some level, intimate. This is why you have to use the second level of politeness.
Have you ever watched popular guys talking with people they’ve just met? There’s no messing around. They go straight in, handshake, pat on the back, whatever, launching straight into conversation like they’d known the new person for years. This forms bonds straight between the two of them. If you approach every new person with caution and distance then you may never cause a major social offense – but neither will you make close friends quickly. Caution and distance help you to develop cautious distant relationships. Acting friendly and forthcoming helps you develop friendly and forthcoming relationships.
Remember how I mentioned that the biggest jerk in the room seems to get the girl? Now you know why. There might be a difference between being a nice guy acting friendly with everyone, and just being a jerk and not caring who you crush into the dirt, but the difference is rarely obvious in social situations. If you don’t make friends with the pretty girl, then she’s just going to get dominated by the moron who knows all the moves to get into her pants.
Newsflash: Beautiful girls DO NOT NEED ANY MORE GROVELERS! They have plenty of them. They are used to the first level of politeness being the norm. You need the second level to get their attention. Remember what you’re trying to do here – develop an intimate relationship (strong friendship or romantic). You would never treat your mates as though they were better than you. As tempting as it may be, the same applies for lovely ladies – always stay as an equal, not treating them as a Goddess. Jerks succeed at this because they have no regard for the value of other people, so they never treat anyone as being valuable. You however, can do this because you have class.
OK, so, lets go over the main points.
- Politeness as treating others as equals NOT as superiors. If you act socially like someone is above you, they will treat you like you’re below them. This is a lose-lose situation. If you act as an equal, you will be considered and treated as one.
- Be a friend NOT an acquaintance. We gather up acquaintances all through our lives, and most of them are fairly replaceable. Nobody wants to put effort into keeping acquaintances, so don’t act like one.
- Be insulting NOT complementary. This is a bit tricky. When I say this I don’t mean directing unflattering comments about the shape of the head of the first person you meet. I mean two things – firstly, don’t be afraid of playful banter. Friendships thrive on being able to take a joke and give as good as they get. Secondly, don’t overdo the compliments. People will either get tired of your flattery (and possibly suspect you of being a stalker) or take it to heart and consider themselves way out of your league. Neither of these is good. At all.
- Be reckless NOT cautious. It’s always tempting to feel out a situation before you act. However, while you’re busy working out if you should ask the girl of your dreams out or not while tentatively trying to gather a signal from her as to whether you should, the girl of your dreams is losing faith in the hope that you will ever ask her out, and moving on to stupid jerk guy. Just act, move in, say something, be noticed. Unless you do, you might as well be a part of the furniture.
- Be a Rock Star NOT a Groupie. Beautiful girls have enough Groupies swarming to ogle them. What you need to be is a rock star, confident, public, fun, chatty (but not blabbering).
So, you don’t have to stop being polite for social and romantic success. You just have to remember that politeness is more that following specific social rules and regulations. It’s a way of putting others at ease and showing them you respect them. And, for goodness sake, enjoying it.