Paul Ford shared some inspiring advice recently on being polite. He writes:
“Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me… When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: ‘Wow. That sounds hard.'”
This works because everyone believes their job is difficult, Ford says, which is actually true when you consider their circumstances. “People silently struggle from all kinds of terrible things,” he continues. “They suffer from depression, ambition, substance abuse, and pretension. They suffer from family tragedy, Ivy-League educations, and self-loathing. They suffer from failing marriages, physical pain, and publishing.
“The good thing about politeness is that you can treat these people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens. You don’t have to have an opinion. You don’t need to make a judgment.”
You just need to care, he concludes. You can start by looking others in the eye and asking their name with a smile and firm handshake. Then keep it up over time to ensure your politeness is enduring. After all, fleeting politeness is forgettable, Ford says. Lasting politeness is memorable and makes an impact.