Guest Post by Alan Gibson
Social heresy: stop being so cloyingly, insufferably polite
There are variations, but typically it goes like this:
“Fine. How’re you?”
“Fine thanks. Nice to see you.”
“Nice to see you.”
What’s the point of all that? Cordiality? I never feel buoyed by one of those exchanges; I feel diminished. For all the “how are you’s” nobody finds out how the other is.
And that’s too bad because it’s a splendid query—how, at essence, are you? But the question presumes a certain intimacy and investment of time. Ideally, the parties would be lounging with drinks, watching water or a sunset.
A friend explained to me that the casual ‘how are you’ is genuine in that the asker wants to be reassured that the other is ‘all right.’ Which to me compounds the disingenuity since no one is ever all right this side of a lobotomy.
“You’ve go a bad attitude,” my friend remarked. “There’s nothing wrong with being polite.”
There is, however, something wrong with emptiness, with essence being trivialized, with substitute yammer for authentic openness of spirit. It would be a fine thing if more of us told one another how we are. But you can’t fake the discourse, or short-cut your way to that kind of understanding.