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Sunday, April 23, 2017

“Being Polite” versus “Being Nice”; social implications.

  “Being Polite” versus “Being Nice”

A foreword:

1. People keep confusing “being polite” with “being nice”.
“Being polite” means – no any physical encounter, no offensive words, no name calling, etc., and REQUIRED by the law.
And for way too many people “being nice” means – “do not tell me what might upset me”.
But - there is NO law that requires people to be nice.
An imaginary conversation.
"You should not tell me this".
"Because it makes me feel sad".
"You should not tell me this"!
"Because it makes me feel sad"!!
"Do I call you names?"
"No but ..."
"Do I say something degrading about you?"
"No, but I don't feel uplifting, I feel difficult, uncomfortable."
"We need to be polite and discuss matters that may affect our life. Why should I care all the time about how you feel? Why should YOU care all the time about how I feel? 
"Because ...  ... you need to be nice!"
"Because! ... I'm leaving! You are impossible!"
There is another version of a this discussion.
"Don't tell me that!"
"But those are facts!"
"I don't care! It makes me feel upset."
"But we need to know facts for designing the best strategy"
"I don't want to hear anything that upsets me! Go away, or say something nice!"
Too many people (at least from my point of view) confuse "being a professional" with "being friendly". People think "This guy does not look friendly, I don't feel comfortable talking with him/her. That is why I prefer not to communicate with him/her even if it would be helpful to do my job better." I would not call this type of a person "a professional", because for a professional the number one criterion for any action is how it will help to do the job as good as possible. If an uncomfortable communication can help to do it - go for it!
If someone gets so easily upset, that one simply should not go any close to politics (or management, or any professional field that requires communication with other people, really: for more follow to “Intellectual stagnation, social conformism, and the crisis of logical communication).
Americans act like "You gave me food in a paper bag! I refuse to eat it until you place it on a golden plate!" The focus on the appearance instead on the content. And they do that because usually they simply cannot comprehend the meaning of the content.
Naturally, this affect management on ALL levels of society.

More on avoiding difficult conversation at 

"When conforming to conformity leads to social deterioration".

Also, watch a great conversation between Mill Maher and Dr. Jordan B. Peterson.

This part starts from a story and ends with a joke.

When Perestroika ruined Russian economy, I needed money for food. The government didn’t give me much for that, but allowed me to buy vodka for me, my wife, and my one-year old son. 
Vodka was cheap, but even it was sold only by leaflets/cards. After standing in a long line to buy our vodka, I went to the city market and tried to sell it for some money or at least to exchange it for some canned food. Some people would like to offer me something else; they would like to get vodka and give me a pair of gloves, or a scarf. When that happened I always said “Thank you, but no, I don't need gloves, or a scarf, I need money or food”.
This history comes to my mind when I think about the way some Americans behave (as one of the reasons America is in a difficult state right now: Why Americans are Starting To Lose the World Race for Prosperity?).
When people offer me their nice behavior and want in exchange of my nice behavior I tell him – of course, only in my mind – “thank you but, no I don't want you to be nice, I want you to be smart”.
It's a very simple transaction, a hand washes a hand, the crux of capitalism – you give to me something I want, and I give to you something you want.
Now, the promised joke.
When people start doing something smart, I will start doing something nice. Until then, all I need to do – always! – is being polite, because that what is required by the law.

Confusion between "polite" and "nice" is not confined by politics, one can see it in science, in business, basically everywhere where people talk. In politics it is called "political correctness", in other spheres it may be called "rudeness", or "cynicism". Unfortunately, this confusion presents a huge obstacle to forging an effective collaboration.

On a personal note:
this is one of my favorite Russian wisdoms (more in a different post):
When I finish my last lecture of the course, I like to mention the difference between a classical particle and a quantum one. When a classical particle "hits" the barrier, it always bounces back. But for a quantum particle there is always a chance to "penetrate" a barrier, it is called "tunneling". Then I say "when you hit a barrier in your life, ask yourself - what kind of a particle I am?"
Just one of numerous illustrations how physics is related to the every-day life. 

Homework question:  why what many of my students think about me is opposite to what many of adults do?

As a man of science, I know that terminology is an important instrument for making our statements as clear as possible. Science begins from classification and definitions. And in science calling thins what they are is the only way the science can be done.


For example:


Saying to a short person – you’re short – is not an insult, it is merely a statement of a fact. Saying to a short fat – you’re fat – is not an insult, it is merely a statement of a fact. “Saying to an idiot – you’re an idiot – is not an insult, it is merely a statement of a fact. Of course, when people hear facts they don’t like, they may feel upset, angry, vindictive, etc. And that is fine. The real question is, what are they going to do about that? A short person can become an actor. A fat person can lose some weight. And an idiot could, maybe, start learning from others. Or they can focus all their energy to destroy the source of the facts they don’t like to hear.


 The latest tweet on the matter

This post is a part of a series that also includes:


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