Politeness Never Kills

Will you be more inclined to subscribe to this blog or even buy on one of my books if I say, please and send you a thank you note when you have?

These politeness’s seem to be disappearing. We buy and expect service. We don’t need to show politeness because we have bought servility.

I remember my Mum prodding me when I got a gift? ‘What do you say to …’ I am part of a generation brought up with these platitudes. I said my, pleases, thank yous, and wrote to my aunts and uncles when I was given birthday or Xmas presents.

However hard I try to be a ruthless and the alpha male I still find it difficult to be rude to someone and the pleases are still there. It so ingrained in my behaviour that when I ask my faithful assistant, Alexa for something I always add a, please. Of course, I am talking about the Amazon product Alexa and not my fiancé Sasha, christened Alexandra. Not saying please and thank you to her would be an act of stupidity with a very unhappy ending.

Alexa, turn on the light, please, I say, or Alexa, Play Radio 4, please. I can’t stop myself and I am delighted to see that Amazon is finally going to reward me for my politeness. One of the pushiest and most aggressive marketeers have added politeness to their list of good behaviour.

Sadly, only available in the US, Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa can be made to encourage children (and some adults) to say please and, thank you when giving a voice command.

“This is a very positive development,” research director Simon Leggett told the BBC. “We had noticed that practically none of the children that we had talked to said they ever used the words ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ when talking to their devices.

The politeness feature – which has been branded Magic Word – encourages children to say: “Please,” and: “Thank you,” by acknowledging use of the terms. So, for example, if the child asks: “What will the weather be today please?” Alexa will add to its response: “Thanks for asking so nicely.” Likewise, once Alexa has completed a task, if the child says: “Thank you,” it will prompt one of several follow-ups, including “No worries,” and “You’re welcome.”

The younger of my readers may mock me but there is a deeper reason for my concern.

In January, the research company ChildWise published a report warning that youngsters that grew up accustomed to barking orders at Alexa, Google Assistant or some other virtual personality might become aggressive in later dealings with humans.

I would go further. Children don’t just bark orders to Alexa. They bark at everyone, machine and human.

There are times in grown-up world when you need to be determined, focussed, and hold your own. Some leaders have had to declare war and there is no way you can do that with politeness but for most of us, in our everyday life, there is no excuse not to be polite.

Brits may be amused shopping in the USA when they leave with a have a nice day and you’re welcome. We may mock their apparent insincerity, but we are no different.

On Quora, one of the most common questions is directed to Americans asking them what they found different about living in the UK. Top of nearly every list is their amusement of the British reaction to being bumped into when out walking at rush hour. Whosever fault, the British always say sorry. Accidently, drip some of your beer over a Brit in a busy pub and his first reaction will be to say, sorry, my fault.

Of course, they may not reflect the inner feelings, but the reaction allows the feeling to be suppressed and a basis for resolution is at hand.

Politeness diffuses the difficult situation and builds a basis for reconciliation.

Amazon, has done something good and I applaud them, and I hope they read this, send me an email which only has to say, ‘You’re welcome’.