Being Polite vs. Being Sincere

Politeness vs. Sincerity

I remember the first time I was caught off guard by a simple question I asked a friend. She and I had met at our local coffee shop to sit and chat about friends, weekend plans, and recent happenings. As we sat down with warm drinks, she asked how I was doing. I responded, “I’m great, how are you?” I wasn’t expecting her less than happy response when she said that she wasn’t doing so good, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond.

Overcoming the Uncomfortable

So often in life we are prepared for typical answers such as, “I’m well!” or, “everything is great!” But what are we supposed to do when someone tells us they aren’t well? We have to resort to a place we aren’t used to – a place that steps outside the walls of simple etiquette. Quite frankly, it’s a place that can be very uncomfortable for some.

Exceeding Politeness

Unfortunately, being polite isn’t going to help a person in need. Simply telling them, “I’m so sorry” or, “that’s terrible!” probably won’t do much for their hardship. When a friend, family member, coworker, or even a stranger, reaches out in a time of need, it can be difficult to break out of the social boundaries we are so used to. Dont:

  • Try to change the subject
  • Make light of the situation
  • Give meaningless advice
  • Make it about yourself and a personal story

Becoming Sincere

It’s okay to avoid pre-generated responses and sincerely speak to someone’s heart. Try providing real support to someone facing difficulty by actively listening to his or her struggle. If they tell you their story, give your response and ask meaningful questions. Allow the conversation to grow to a level of honesty and clarity. It might not be comfortable at first, but lending a sympathetic ear might be all that person needs. Sometimes, all they want is someone to vent to. Do: 

  • Speak the truth
  • Remind them of the goodness in their life
  • Put your phone or laptop away and give them your full attention
  • Help brainstorm ideas and ask what you can do to help

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