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The Power of Politeness

Oct 03, 2017 by Raquel Phillips

Why would anyone choose being rude over being polite?

We have hundreds of clients at Service Direct and each client is unique in how they handle various situations from being satisfied with our service to dissatisfied. Of course, adapting to a client’s particular needs is more challenging when the client becomes aggressive. No matter how the client is feeling that day, I prioritize politeness in each interaction with these clients. What do I mean by prioritizing politeness? In any situation I have the option to either further escalate the situation or to put my emotions aside and calmly talk to the client with a positive take on their situation.

There are times when putting my emotions aside means feeling those emotions much stronger after the situation has passed. When this happens I typically ask: Why would this person behave rudely? One could easily decide that a person’s rude behavior is due to the person just being downright rude. However, many studies have shown rude behavior is a result from other contributing factors.

I want to provide you with invaluable information about handling various situations in your everyday life from theories and research about why people act rudely to how being polite is beneficial to you and others around you, and deciding when it’s okay to be rude, if ever.


"Not only could you make that person’s day better by responding with kindness, but you could also make other people’s day better with just that one interaction."


Theoretically speaking, we all know that a little sleep loss, or hunger, or stress can cause you to react more pointedly, but how does this contribute to rude behavior?

According to a recent study from Independent called “How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Brain” by Rachel Hosie, getting too few hours of sleep at night can result in emotional sensitivity. This means that when a person is unhappy about not getting what they want, be it a product or a service, this sleep loss is a contributing factor to emotionally charged reactions. Sometimes, tiredness are to blame for increased rude behavior, but there are other factors at play here as well.

If not, think about how hunger is a key component to a person’s stability and happiness. Without food in one’s belly, a person can become disgruntled rapidly. In Big Think’s article, “Feeling Hangry: How Hunger Dominates Our Emotions,” Orion Jones notes how hunger and anger are directly correlated. When a person is hungry, they are more likely to react irrationally with anger. But does anger equate with rude? Perhaps not. Hunger and tiredness affect our ability to think their response through before reacting, which might be perceived as being rude. While hunger and sleep deprivation certainly play a large role in how we interact with one another, there are other factors that contribute to a person’s behavior as well.


Instant gratification plays a large part in American culture today. Whenever someone wants something, they want it now. These are the Veruca Salt’s in the world. In today’s fast-paced society, instant gratification is perpetuated by easy access to anything a person could ever want: grocery stores, malls, convenient stores, hotels, shops, fast food restaurants, etc. are all within close proximity to millions of people. How does instant gratification influence rude behavior? As Neil Patel discusses in his article, “The Psychology of Instant Gratification and How It Will Revolutionize Your Marketing Approach,” in marketing, it is clearer now more than ever that people want service immediately and even expect it, hence support chats available to people any time of the day or night. 24/7 support is a double-edged sword though. On one hand, it’s great that a person can receive an answer to a question or resolve a problem even in the middle of the night, but what about more complex conversations? Now with access to support systems anytime, any day, expectations and demands are even higher, which brings me to my next point about the influences factoring into rude responses.

With increased use of robotic answering services, being rude has never been easier. On a phone conversation or in an email, people have the ability to speak however they want to a stranger because of technology, which becomes a veil, protecting them from facing moral questions that they would otherwise have to consider in a face-to-face interaction. So how do we overcome this problem in a high-tech industry with an instantly gratified population?

How does being nice benefit me?

Being nice has more positive repercussions than being rude. Of course, if you respond rudely to a person, this has a direct effect on that person. By negatively impacting that person you were rude to, they in turn will be more inclined to react rudely to another person; then the domino effect occurs. Conversely, by responding politely to a person they in turn will be more inclined to be polite to the next person they interact with and it is altogether a more beneficial turnout. Not only could you make that person’s day better by responding with kindness, but you could also make other people’s day better with just that one interaction.

Studies show that niceness takes you further than being rude. When a person is rude and asking for something, they often times will be left dissatisfied because they won’t get what they want. For instance, in Shep Hyken’s “Customer Service Tip: Polite Society,” Hyken discusses the service benefits of being polite. An employee is more likely to give a customer more (either service, product, friendliness, etc.) when the customer is polite. In other words, being polite is a win-win situation. You are kind to someone and make their day, and they in turn feel friendlier and are more likely to better help you in a business interaction, normally.

When is it ok to be rude?

Now, there are times when rudeness gets the best of us, but when, if ever, is that ok? Sometimes you might feel wronged in a situation or you feel that an outcome was unfair, and you are inevitably upset. We can’t forget that being upset is ok too. It is a natural reaction, whether influenced by sleep deprivation, hunger, stress, culture, and/or another person being rude to you, this is inadvertently human! And there are times when niceness doesn’t get us very far and we feel obligated to react in a negative, rude manner because it is our way of trying to prove authority over a situation. Unfortunately, acting rudely will never truly prove authority in any situation because being rude perpetuates insensitivity in our culture. And that does not prove authority, but it does prove that you have lost control over a situation at hand. So how do we react when emotions get the best of us?

Finding the Silver Lining

Well, if it’s not ok to be rude, then how do I handle the situation? There are many ways to de-escalate situations and some of them may make you feel silly, like counting down from ten! However, if it works, do it! If you can save hurting someone else, then I think any and every effort is worth putting it forward to help preserve human interactions. Like I mentioned in the first paragraph, as a customer support representative, my job is to help, and acting rudely has an adverse effect on any client when it comes to my work. If you feel that you are being treated unfairly, communication is key to resolving the situation.

Through open communication, many problems can be resolved. Coming from an emotional perspective is handy if you are upset with anyone. The main thing to remember is that the person you are talking to is just as human as you are and being polite is much more fulfilling and powerful than being rude.

How do you choose politeness in your day-to-day interactions? Talk to us in the comments below.

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