17 Things Polite People Never Say
A little care goes a long way.
We’d all like to be more polite. The polite person gets the secret discount, the last available table, the self-satisfied feeling that comes when you know for a fact you’ve brightened someone’s day. Simply, being polite is good for all parties. But, the thing is, if you’re not actively trying to be polite, you might be actually be doing the opposite.
A lot of the niceties you may use in everyday conversation—without a second thought—are considered by some to be downright impolite. Basically, when it comes down it, being polite is to focus less on saying the right things and more on not saying the wrong things. So, to learn the wrong things, read on. Soon enough, you’ll find politeness comes just as easy as niceness. And for more ways to live a magnanimous existence, here 30 Small Acts of Kindness That Will Improve Your Life.
“When is your baby due?”
Are you cringing yet? I’d always heard of this one, and thought it was a bit of a myth—until my wife was pregnant with our first child. One day, we were checking out at the grocery store and the cashier asked that fatal question. To their credit, my wife was in her 3rd trimester and she’s a very petite woman—there was no question of her being pregnant. And yet, the assumption, though meant to be a polite conversation starter, still came across as awfully presumptuous and anything but polite.
“Have you lost weight?”
Unless you’re really close friends, who says this? Well, turns out, it doesn’t matter how close you are—a phrase like this just comes across as insensitive. “Compliments” along these lines just make the assumption that a person has changed from some previously less-desirable state. There are plenty of better ways to make a person feel good about themselves. For inspiration, check out The 30 Best Compliments to Give People Over 30.
“Wow, I can’t believe your shoes, they’re amazing! Oh, and your dress…”
When you compliment someone too much, not only does your level of sincerity go down with each thing you say, you also come off a little creepy. Behavioral health director Anya Shumilina, LMSW told Bustle, “Unknowingly, we might make a person self-conscious by strengthening the belief that one’s appearance [or] weight are a topic to be discussed.” While you might be trying to be polite, saturating your conversations with compliments will just make the people involved feel uncomfortable. Just keep things brief, simple, and, above all, sincere.
“So, tell me about your family.”
Small talk is hard enough as it is. No need to make it worse by prying and interrogating. Here’s a common example you may have experienced in the wild yourself.
You’re on a long flight, and you’re stuck sitting next to That Guy. Yeah, you know exactly who: The guy who, no matter how many one-word answers you give, is bound and determined to find out about your deepest, darkest secrets. And while he’s unyieldingly loosening up, you’re slowly retracting deeper and into your shell.
Don’t be That Guy.
“It’s my treat, I’ll pay.” “Oh, no, I’ve got the bill.”
This little game might seem playful to you, but from the perspective of the person waiting your table, it’s actually pretty rude. Evelyn Krasnik says this argument is sweet, “but as a person working the register, it is also extremely stressful and inefficient.” When both customers eagerly hand out their credit cards, how is the waiter or waitress supposed to know what to do? And for more ways to stay on your server’s good side, learn all about the 20 Things You’re Doing That Are Annoying Your Waiter.
“No, you go ahead.”
It’s all too easy to forget that, when you’re behind the wheel, you’re operating an enormous, heavy machine at very high speeds, and sometimes that can result in unpredictable behavior—which, yes, can include being overly polite. Everyone is safest when drivers follow the rules of the road as closely as possible and behave predictably. That means, when, say, you’re at a four-way stop, whomever arrived first has the right of way. Leave politeness by the side of the road.
“How much do you make?”
Didn’t your mother teach you better? What an awkward question. Darlene Price, president of Well Said Inc. told Business Insider, “It’s considered rude to ask, and unconscionable on a first encounter. If you’re really that curious, or it’s important that you know, instead of committing this faux pas, do some research on sites like Glassdoor, PayScale, [or] Salary.com.”
“I need to use the little boys’ room.”
This usually only comes from men over 40. Maybe it’s meant to be polite, but it’s really just weird and draws unnecessary attention to the fact that you’re going to “do your business.” A simple statement along the lines of “Excuse me, I need to use the restroom” is far more appropriate.
“What’s your name?”
Yes, it’s polite (and expected) to ask a person’s name when you first meet, but only if you remember it throughout the conversation—and the next time you see them. Few things more important to a person than their name. The sooner you remember that, the sooner you’ll remember everyone’s name. And if you need help on that front, here are 10 Ways to Develop a Photographic Memory.
“I saw you went on vacation last month.”
It doesn’t matter what’s posted on social media. According to Jeff Haden, you shouldn’t discuss aspects of somebody’s personal life until they actually disclose them IRL. As Haden recently wrote in Inc., “Maybe it seems like the person wants everyone to know about a personal subject, but in fact that’s rarely the case. So unless his or her social media broadcasts were specifically directed to you, always wait.”
As the rule goes, you can say anything you want as long as you’re “just saying,” right? (Exhibit A: “She really shouldn’t wear that shirt, just saying.”) Um, no. Whether to the person’s face or not, no matter how you disguise it, rudeness is rudeness.
“Am I boring you?”
Let’s say you’re chatting with someone, and, suddenly, you spot a blank expression on their face—and you start to feel bad about wasting their time. But the truth is, asking a question like this puts the other part in a bit of a tough position. It kind of sounds like you’re hurling an accusation, or you might even give off the impression that you think the conversation is boring. And in the worst cases, you might even be met with an unflinching, “That’s just my face.” Stay on the safe side: don’t make off-hand remarks about facial expressions.
“How are you doing?”
Contrary to popular belief, this phrase is in fact not a substitute for “Hello”. The other day, for example, I passed a coworker in the hall and he shot off a quick, “How you doin’?” By the time I could respond, he had already turned the corner. Did he really care about my wellbeing? The same goes for those whose job it is to ask: A cashier, a server, a telemarketer or call center operator. Do they really care? Or is it just part-and-parcel of everyday communication? Sincerity makes all the difference.
“Johnny, tell Sarah how pretty she looks.”
Ah, the parents who force their kids to compliment, be nice to, or—worst of all—be friends with other kids. All this will do is breed resentment down the line. And for more ways to communicate with your offspring, here are 40 Things You Should Never Say to Your Kid.
“Wow you speak so well for a Deaf person.”
Why add the qualifier at the end? There is no need to emphasize the fact that the person is deaf. Rochelle Barlow, an ASL educator, said, “If you really want to comment on their speech, say it a different way. The offensive part is ‘for a Deaf person.’”
“Sorry to bother you.”
Stop and think about this one for a minute. This oxymoron is almost laughable. It’s right up there with “I don’t mean to be rude, but…” in the hall of lame. Barbara Pachter, author of The Essentials of Business Etiquette, told Business Insider, “if you are truly sorry about something you haven’t done yet, then why would you go ahead and do it anyway? When introducing yourself, ‘Excuse me. Do you have a moment?’ works much better.” And to make sure your manners are always on point, check out 27 Worst Things You Can Ever Say to Customer Service.
“You’re so brave.”
This is often meant to be a polite verbalization of your admiration for the way a person handles adversity. But the effect is often the complete opposite. Anne Wafula Strike, the British Paralympic racer, told The Guardian, “I do cringe when people marvel at me, saying I must be ‘brave’ or ‘inspiring’—just because I am out shopping on my own. ‘You must be so brave.’ I find this phrase very patronizing. Don’t say this to me unless I have wrestled a tiger or a crocodile or done something extraordinary, like fly to the moon and back. I don’t see how I can be inspiring by getting on with life.”
To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to follow us on Instagram!