I’m always reminded of how subjective courtesy is by a friend of mine from Greece. In her native country, when someone expresses to another that they are in some kind of predicament—no matter how big or small, it is considered rude to utter anything resembling “sorry to hear that,” or “that’s too bad.” You are instead expected to offer a form of tangible advice. The example she always uses illustrates two strangers that have managed to strike up a conversation at a bus station. One tells the other that they just lost their job. In this scenario, it would be customary for the receiver to scan their contacts to see if they might know someone that’s looking for hires. In her first year in America, my friend was acerbically branded a “busy-body know it all.”
Noting the same subjectivity regarding politeness, Crystal Ski Holidays surveyed 2,000 employees about what they regarded to be rude behavior in an office setting. The range is truly remarkable. One-third of workers thought it was rude to ask what a colleague’s name was after they had already been told. They thought it so rude in fact, they were willing to go the rest of their tenure never knowing said colleague’s name if it meant they didn’t have to request it again.
Alongside an obsessive compulsion to say “I’m sorry” (even for things that they were not responsible for), a shocking 23% of employees featured in the Crystal Ski Holidays report believed that it was impolite to ask a fellow employee for a favor-any favor. Chris Logan, who is the managing director at the UK based company that conducted the study, added.
“As a nation, it’s almost second nature to be polite, and asking someone to repeat themselves can come across as rude, even when we really need a reminder. But our study found this lack of confidence can have a real negative impact on our personal growth and development.”
Logan just might be on to something. Sarcasm is an obvious given, but a notable portion of the English respondents additionally thought that it was rude not to sit next to someone on public transportation. Asking for directions/instructions on how to best complete tasks was also included on the list of things that made a lot of employees feel uncomfortable. This indicates several problems because the majority of the respondents in the same survey agreed that 47 was too old to take on new skills or be able to be enhanced by new experiences. Sadly, six in 10 participants were only willing to take on challenges if they have a friend by their side.
On this Logan explained to Bustle: “There are ways and means to learn something new, even if you are too polite to ask for instructions to be repeated and can’t digest everything you are told first time round.”