For most of human history, the idea of being polite has been central to our sense of what is required to count as a good and civilized person. But more recently, politeness has come under suspicion. It can sound a bit fake and insincere and in its own way really rather rude. We often tend to prefer the idea of being frank and speaking our own minds. The rise in our collective suspicion of politeness has a history. Politeness used to be central to our education. Etiquette, books and guides to manners were all deemed essential. Yet in the late 18th century, the approach was thrown into distribute. An alternative romantic idea emerged, in large part driven forward by the Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who powerfully re-described politeness as an indication of servility and deceit, and argued in favor of always remaining true to yourself. The romantic suspicion of politeness, was given a further boost by the increasing role of the United States. being direct and open came to be seen by Americans themselves as one of their national virtues and attitude encapsulated in a climactic line from “Gone with the Wind”. When Rhett Butler turns the scholar to her and tells her exactly how he sees it “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”. And because America has been the world’s most influential culture for around a century and a half, its attitude towards politeness has been widely and pervasively disseminated around the planet ever since. Would ultimately separates the polite from the Frank person isn’t really a knowledge of etiquette. It’s not really about what knife to use at a formal dinner, when to say please or thank you, or how to word a wedding invitation. It comes down to a contrasting set of beliefs about human nature. The polite and the frank person behave differently, chiefly because they see the world in highly divergent ways. These are some of the key ideological issues that separate them. Frank people believe in the importance of expressing themselves honestly. Principally because they trust that what they happen to think and feel will always proved to be fundamentally acceptable to the world. They’re true sentiments and opinions may when voiced be bracing of course – but no worse. These Frank types assume that what is honestly avowed cannot really ever be vindictive, disgusting, tedious or cruel. in this sense, the polite person sees themselves a little in the way we typically see small children: as blessed by an original innate goodness. Even the most etiquette-conscious among us don’t usually think that the strictures of politeness will apply to the very young. We remain interested to hear about whatever may be passing through these diminutive creatures’ minds and we stay unalarmed by their awkward moments or negative statements. if they say that the pasta is yuck or that the taxi driver is a head like a weird goldfish, it sounds funny rather than wounding. The Frank persons trust in their basic purity erodes the rationale for editing or self-censorship. They can believe that everything about them will more or less prove fine, whatever they happen to say or do. The Polite Person, by contrast, proceed under a fervent suspicion of themselves and their impulses. They sense that a great deal of what they feel and want really isn’t very nice. They’re closely in touch with their darkest desires and consents they’re fleeting wishes to hurt or humiliate people. They know they’re sometimes a bit revolting and cannot forget the extent to which they may be offensive or frightening to others. they therefore set out on a deliberate strategy to protect others from what they know is within them. It isn’t lying as such. they merely understand that being themselves is a treat they should take enormous pains to spare everyone else from experiencing- especially anyone they claim to care about. the Frank person operates with a charming unconscious assumption that other people are at heart pretty much like them. this can make them very clubbable and allows them to create some astonishing intimacy’s across social barriers at high speed. When they like listening to a particular piece of music and high-volume, they’ll take it is obvious that you probably do as well. Because they’re very enthusiastic about spicy food, or never want to add salt to a dish, it doesn’t cross their mind to ask if you actually like this restaurant or would favor a salt cellar on the table. For their part, the polite person starts from the assumption that others are highly likely to be in quite different places internally, whatever the outward signs. their behavior is therefore tentative, weary and filled with inquiries. they will explicitly checkup with others to take a measure of their experiences and outlook; if they feel cold, they’re very alive to the possibility that you may be feeling perfectly warm and so will take trouble to ask if you’d mind if they went over and close the window. they’re aware that you might be annoyed by a joke that they find funny or that you might very sincerely hold political opinions quite at odds with their own. Their manners are grounded in an acute sense of the gulf that can separate one human being from another. The Frank person works with an underlying sense that other people are internally for the most part extremely robust. Those around them are not felt to be forever on the verge of self-doubt and self-hatred. their egos are not assumed to be gossamer thin and at perpetual risk of deflating. There is therefore understood to be no need to let out constant small signals of reassurance and affirmation. when you go to someone’s house the fact that the meal was tasty, will be obvious to everyone, not least the person who spent four and a half hours cooking it. so there’s no need to keep stressing the point in a variety of discrete ways. the office junior must have a pretty clear sense that they’re making the grade without a need to stop and spell it out. The Frank person assumes that everyone’s ego is already at least as big and strong as it should be. the polite person however starts from a contrary assumption that all of us are permanently only millimeters away from inner collapse, despair and self-hatred. However confident we may look, we are painfully vulnerable to a sense of being disliked and taken for granted. all of us are walking around without a skin. accordingly, the polite person will be drawn to spend a lot of time noticing and commenting positively on the most apparently minor details. they’ll say that the watercress soup was the best they’ve had for years. they’ll mention that work on the Mexico deal was really helpful too, and was noticed by the whole compan. they’ll know that everyone we come across, has a huge capacity to hurt us with what we foolishly and unfairly referred to as ‘small things’. There will be an associated difference in how the Frank and polite person behaves and service context. Frank people don’t feel any great need to express gratitude. the waiter or the person at the car car-hire has (they feel) no special need of kindness on top of the money they’ll already be getting from the transaction. Yet the Polite person knows that we need to find respect and a form of love from our work as much as we need cash. so they’ll be conscious of an additional need to contribute smiles and a pleasant word or two. these people are doing their jobs for the money of course, but payment never invalidates an equally strong emotional hunger for a sense of having been useful noticed and appreciated by another person. the Frank person is often very kind, but in a big way. they’re interested in enormous acts of generosity and kindness towards major sections of humanity: perhaps the rescue of the whole continent of Africa or a plan to give every child in the country an equally good start in life. But a consequence of their enthusiasm can be a certain in patients with smaller moves and gestures. There’s really no point, they may feel, in spending time and money sending people flowers, writing notes after a dinner or remembering birthdays – when a fundamental transformation of the human condition is at hand. The Polite also passionately cares about spreading kindness, love and goodness on a mass scale, but they’re cautious about the chances of doing so on any realistic time horizon. yet their belief that you perhaps can’t make things a lot better for a huge number of people in the coming decades< makes them feel that it is still very much a worthy goal to try and make a modest, minor improvement in the lives of the few humans you do have direct contact with in the here and now. they may never be able to transform another person’s prospects entirely or rescue the whole species from its agonies, but they can smile and stop for 5 minutes to chat to a neighbor about the weather. their modesty around what’s possible makes them acutely sensitive to the worth of the little things that can be done before today is over. the Frank person has a high degree of confidence as to their ability to judge relatively quickly and for the very long-term what’s right and wrong about a given situation. they feel they can tell who’s behaved well or badly and what the appropriate course of action should be around any dilemma. this is what gives them the confidence to get angry with whatever strikes them as stupid and to blow up bridges with people they become vexed with. the polite person is much more unsure. They’re conscious that what they feel strongly about today might not be what they end up thinking next week. they know how easily they can get it all wrong. so they’re drawn to deploy softening, tentative language and holding back on criticism whenever possible. they’ll suggest that an idea might not be quite right. they’ll say that a project is attractive but that it could be interesting to look at alternatives as well, they’ll consider that an intellectual opponent may well have a point. They aren’t just lying or dodging tough decisions. their behavior is symptomatic of a new asked belief that few ideas are totally without merit. no proposals are 100-percent wrong and almost no one is entirely foolish. they know good and bad are deviously entangled. their politeness is a logical careful response to the complexity that they identify in the world. both the Frank and the polite person of course have important lessons to teach us, but it may be that at this point in history, it’s the distinctive wisdom of the polite person that is actually the one most right for rediscovery and that may have the most effective power to take the edge off some of the more brutal, aggressive and in the end counterproductive consequences of the reigning Frank ideology.