Last month, I was about to take a taxi to my gym from my usual stop. I waved my hand and a cab stopped and a woman was about to get off. She opened the door and was yelling at the driver. She screamingly said, “how is it my problem that you’re new to the area? Don’t come and drive a taxi when you’re not familiar with the roads or have the right equipment. I am late because of you and you can’t even use the GPS, stupid man.” She slammed the door and told me to not take the taxi. Prejudice and prior experience got the worst of me in that moment, and I thought to myself, “I am sure the taxi driver must have done something and it must be his fault. He may be wanting to make an extra buck and taking the passenger in circles.”
However, as I was really getting late for my training session, I stepped into the cab. He told me, “Ma’am, if you’re OK, I am new, I will need directions. I think the GPS is taking me through different routes.” He was really polite. I was surprised by his polite behavior. Two minutes into the ride I realized that he was genuinely the politest man and his GPS, for some reason, WAS actually taking suggesting different routes. He told me if I know a shorter way, I could guide him. He was very new, just 2 days into the job and the city. He was nervous and as I probed further, I realized that he was missing his family and being away from home.
I felt sorry for him and even more so for the lady who sat in the taxi earlier. She must have been having a bad day, to have been so rude and inconsiderate. In this moment, I actually realized that the taxi driver could have spoken back to the lady but he chose not to react much and was stuck at the receiving end of anger. He was too polite to not speak about his real situation and thought it might not be “appropriate” to say anything. As I got to know, he felt that he may sound rude or impolite, if he “argued” with the lady. He felt the only way he could have communicated in the situation was either through counter-argument, which he doesn’t like or simply not talking.
Clearly, this cabbie’s politeness wasn’t received too well. This guy felt that he would be impolite to say anything, even though he felt like the customer wasn’t entirely right. In the process, he became the victim.
The above was just one situation where the man was left feeling like a doormat and felt like he did something wrong. Sometimes our conditioned behaviors expect us to be affirmatively polite, which can cost us. Whether it’s business, life or even relationships, it is important to communicate effectively without feeling like a martyr in any situation. Of course, we need to have manners and be nice in general. However, in a situation where we may have conflicting views, we must communicate effectively, without feeling victimized or challenging by another person’s opinions. Here are three things to consider:
- Learn value people’s opinion but accept your reality: As much as it is important to be compassionate towards others, it is also important to introspect and reflect within, to really help another person understand where you are coming from. For instance, if something is missing in the conversation, or doesn’t feel right in your gut… it is important to let the other person know, gently, and of course, politely. Often, when we communicate utmost honestly, and gently, it is received well. Nonetheless, for those douches who don’t care, and still wouldn’t accept your vulnerability, you don’t need to waste your time, in trying too hard to please. Not at all. In fact, all you need to do is, think before you react. Check-in with yourself if you are being true to yourself, first… only then can you go ahead and commit, nicely and empathetically.
- Realize you don’t have to be a ‘yes’ person all the time: Often, in many cultures, politeness is associated with being a YES person. It is believed that we can’t say no to another person or state another opinion, as it might be considered impolite. It is not what we say but always the manner in which we communicate that matters. For instance, this cabbie didn’t think it was polite to speak up against the passenger or let her know his real situation. Eventually, when he did speak, he couldn’t communicate his situation effectively and ended up looking like he was lying or was being a con. It is not humanly possible to be in sync with another person’s behaviors or opinions, completely identically! However, we can choose to reveal our genuine selves by clearly laying our boundaries, saying no wherever needed and avoiding any kind of overcommitment, which we may not be able to live up to.
- Be refreshingly honest with your communications: It is important to remember that your behaviors, your communications, and reactions are a reflection of your own self, and not someone else. In any given situation, today, you are going to be valued so much more when you’re diplomatically and refreshingly honest with your communications. When you’d want to politely say yes or give in to another person’s demands, think how can you be genuinely honest and communicate your true self? Sometimes, all it takes is boldly owning up to the fact that you can only be yourself in the moment. Maintain your soft voice, be genuine, affirm your need to stay true to yourself first, and then align with another person’s opinion.
Now let’s hear it from you: Do these three strategies resonate with you? If yes, why and if not, what more can you add? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.
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