A study in Politeness

People are selfish. Our ancestors have taught us to ask “How are you?” and they have taught us to reply with “I’m fine, thank you.” They have taught us to lie to people that, to us, do not care how we really are. We are taught to lie and they have disguised it in a term called ‘politeness’.

It is considered rude in our system when we reply with something other than “I’m fine” because really, people do not want you to tell the truth! We are selfish creatures, always have been! We have been taught – and are teaching others – to feign ignorance, to pretend we care, when we really want to hear what we expect to hear. Nothing more, nothing less. 

Because this is the dark yet simple truth about humanity, and their manners and their so-called ‘politeness’. We are told to ask these questions as a sign of greeting, and to expect others to lie. Because deep inside, even years ago, we hope others would not tell us what bothers them. We are afraid of feeling hurt, of feeling pity for them – sympathy, pain. We’re afraid of spoiling our own goddamn fine day by caring. Because caring is not an advantage.

We are taught – and are still teaching others – to lie and say “I’m fine” because we are programmed to think that it is rude to spread your negativity to others, even to friends. Why do you think it is so hard for people to open up? Why, do you think, do people open up only to their closest friends? Why can’t people just make eye contact to the stranger beside them and start ranting about their relationship problems?

Because we are selfish. We human beings, we shy away from our troubles, we cover the sides of our faces with our hands, to look straight, to not look at the people who need our help. Because we are taught to help ourselves. 

So often are we told nowadays that one does not need company as you walk along the road of life. It had never occurred to us that there are those who can help us better, yet we have shunned them away. 

It is this very reason that love is so hard to find. One has to look deeper before one can earn a stranger who will care for one’s well-being. It is this very reason that makes caring such a rare trait. Maybe this is not such a bad thing after all. But let me remind you that you could have saved a life, or made one even better, if only you allowed yourself to break your walls and lend a helping hand. 

You can start by changing the system. “Hi, how are you? And don’t just tell me you’re fine. Don’t lie. Don’t be scared. I just thought you might need someone to talk to. You looked kind of sad. Is there anything wrong?”

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A study in Politeness

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