Formality Isn't Polite - Dr. Bunk

Formality Isn’t Polite

Not being polite according to the old standards is sometimes taken as rude

I’m working on it.

After not seeing someone for a long time, my opening comment used to be ”how are you?” or “how have you been?” But that’s not really what I meant.
It’s not what I meant because it won’t get the response I’m really after.
It kicks in the automatic reply. Worse, if I don’t intend on sticking around for the long version, which tends to come out of people from time to time, I’m looking for a way out. That is also perceived as rude.
It’s not me being honest.
Honesty can be rude sometimes.

People take the ways others go about meeting at the gravitational pull of connection differently.
Some people take offense if it’s not done according to their methods. Others don’t feign connection. Cordial implies one accepted means of friendliness. Being real attempts below the surface level of connection, or acknowledgement without taking time.

Pay attention to just how often we do the traditional in the course of a day. There are countless amounts of standard, automatic, stock sayings and responses we use in society. They are attempts at polite connection. They don’t connect. They don’t connect precisely because of their automation. They kick our minds into the same automated level as our life functions. We don’t think about how we make our hand move or blinking.
At best they can open dialogue by breaking the ice.

Breaking the ice

Below the ice there is a flow of water.
How often do we take the time after breaking though? And couldn’t we circumvent the awkward standards with the courage to be more real in what we say?
My challenge is to re-approach the whole experience.
Often I’ll ask a different question. One that makes people actually answer what I’m after. Maybe “what has happened since I’ve seen you last?” is better, or inquiring more specifically about something you know they are doing. Even a connecting statement like “Hi, great to see you again” is straight forward. It’s an affirming expression with no expectation of cordial, nearly meaningless conversation. Then, if I want to and think you do too, we can eventually find the time to sit down and dig in. That’s what the formality is there to instigate in the first place. Neither approach is that big of a change in practice, yet the difference breaks the standard expectations and, to me anyway, is more real.

With the erosion of social graces to a large degree, held up more culturally in the Midwestern States, it’s more important than ever to find ways to connect by being the example of what we are asking about. Break the mold of conversational automation.
Say something new. On purpose.
Be honest and connect with those you want to be inspired by in any way.
The risk is worth it.

One thought on “Formality Isn’t Polite”

  1. My father does this so well, from both angles. When asked, “How are you?” he answers in such a way as to break the automation and connect, even if it’s just to laugh a little (stock answers, “Tirdeccaphobic [afraid of 13], or “Strawberry”, or “on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say about 9.3”). And when he asks the question, he really asks it, and is prepared to take the time to listen to the answer; you can feel the difference. Sometimes he stops and says, “No really, how are you?” Nice. And real.

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