Being polite can get you far in life.
My 104-year-old grandma insisted on it. She taught me to say please and thank you no matter how insignificant it felt.
It’s funny when my wife tells me I have average intelligence but am incredibly street-smart. She regularly asks me to navigate difficult social situations and is amazed by it.
Here are the social rules I live by to avoid being a subtly, rude jerk like so many people you’ve probably met before (who go nowhere in life).
Avoid talking about a woman’s stomach size when she’s pregnant
My wife is pregnant. Everywhere she goes people make comments about her belly.
“Ohhh have you had one-too-many beers, sweetheart?”
Or “you still stacking a few turkeys from last Christmas?”
They’re meant to be jokes but deep down my wife is a little self-conscious. She’s always had an athletic figure and now she’s getting all these comments that she’s not used to.
She’d prefer if people said nothing about her stomach.
Yesterday a friend told me about a real estate agent. One buyer said to her during a home inspection “awww when is the baby due?”
She’s not pregnant. She put on a bit of weight during the lockdowns of the last few years. It made both of them feel like crap.
Rule of thumb: never comment on a woman’s weight.
Tread carefully when you have someone’s phone
There are times when people want to show you a photo on their phone.
Be careful when this happens. Let the owner of the phone guide you. All it takes is one swipe in either direction and you might stumble across a picture of them in a g-banger. It’s happened to me a few times.
Photos on a phone are the underwear draw of the digital world.
Respect people’s time
Time is the greatest currency we have.
It’s worth more than money. Right now I’m hoarding my time so I can spend it with my soon-to-be-born daughter. Taking an hour from me for a Zoom call is like stealing $10,000 from my bank account. It hurts.
Rude people waste your time.
They think you’ve got all day to talk about dumb stuff. Or they’re late to an appointment and don’t realize you have a packed calendar. Doctors do it all the time.
You book an appointment and they just love to be 20–30 minutes late. Not once has a doctor ever apologized to me for it.
This is an opportunity though. I’ve become an expert at *not* wasting people’s time.
I give them opt-outs in emails such as “feel free not to respond if you’re busy.” Or I get to the end of a Zoom call and say “hey, we’re nearly at the end of the hour and I want to be respectful of your time.”
Busy people love it. And successful people tend to have packed calendars.
If you can learn how to respect people’s time, you’ll get in rooms with unlikely people who can change your life.
Respect other people’s opinions no matter how strange
I love other cultures.
So much so I worked at one of the largest companies in India for fun. I learned a lot about their culture and even got addicted to eating curry with my work colleagues or binging on sweets during Diwali.
Quite a few of my Indian friends have had arranged marriages.
One friend (living in Australia) woke up one day and his parents sent him a text that read “we’ve found your wife. Please come back to India ASAP.”
He went back straight away. They got married shortly after and had one of those weddings where the bride and groom ride in on elephants. His wife then moved back with him to Australia.
She left all her friends behind and couldn’t speak a word of English. Shortly after she got pregnant.
This is a strange reality in Western culture because we get to pick our life partners. Still, it pays to respect other cultures, even when their traditions are different from your own.
When you do you end up with a multicultural friendship group, that’s far better than a single-race group of friends who sound like naive crazies ready to join Donald Duck at the next election.
Treat service workers like royalty
Without them we’d have a terrible society. Treating people with enormous respect makes you sexy.
Forget about job titles at work
Juniors are often smarter than the CEO. No joke.
Many people with fancy job titles haven’t worked a hard day in years. And god forbid you ask them to talk to a customer. They have no clue what that is and it makes them wanna crap their pants.
Respect people for how they treat you and the work they do. Not some LinkedIn job title flex.
Forget about whether someone chooses to be single
I got shamed a lot when I was single.
“You’re 30-something so shouldn’t you be married with kids by now?”
It pissed me right off. If someone chooses to be single it’s none of your business. Some people are done with relationships. Some people like hanging out by themselves or going to swinger parties.
Being in a relationship doesn’t determine overall happiness.
Stop looking at your phone when someone is talking to you
Nothing on your phone is as urgent as it may seem.
People in the 1980s lived just fine without them. Leave the phone off the table in meetings or social occasions. It’s rude as f*ck.
When someone else is paying don’t order the most expensive item
My former best friend used to do this all the time. That’s one big reason why we’re no longer friends.
When I paid we’d eat beautifully rested steak with multiple sides. When he paid we’d share a happy meal from Mcdonald’s.
It was funny for a few times. After a while it got annoying. Then he’d borrow money and never pay me back.
Order modest menu items when someone else is paying.
Don’t message people when they’re on holidays
Holidays are sacred.
It’s the one time people can relax and not think about work. Let them unwind so when they come back, they’ll be in a better mood and able to impress you with the way they execute your requests.
Bonus: schedule emails to be sent on Monday instead of the weekend.
Use eye contact in conversations
It shows confidence and builds much stronger bonds.
Hold the door open and smile
It’s a small gesture but people appreciate it. The subtle smile helps to brighten the day of anyone who might be down in the dumps.
Follow up every 2 business days
The key to persuading anyone to do anything isn’t to just ‘ask.’ Any knobhead can do that. You rarely get a yes on your first ask.
Yeses come from follow-up. Most people know that yet they screw up one crucial social rule: Don’t follow up too soon.
The etiquette in business, which applies to life, is to wait 2 business days before following up. Otherwise you come across as a desperate puppy dog looking for a bone to bring home and lick.
Desperation equals guaranteed rejection.
Don’t leave several missed calls in a row
You come across as a desperate loser.
Don’t share intimate details online
Whatever goes up on the internet is there forever.
Most people don’t know. You can hit delete on a post but like magic it appears in another place or via a third-party service.
The general social rule successful people use online is to never throw companies or people under the bus. Makes sense.
You come across as an attention-seeking noob if you do.
Let people talk about themselves a lot when you first meet a new person
People love to talk about themselves. Let them. The more someone gets to talk about themselves the more likely they are to like you.
Don’t brag about kids in front of people without them
Admittedly, I accidentally did this in the last few months.
I was talking to a close friend about how excited I was to be a dad. Eventually when he gave me his life update, I heard the news. He’d been trying to have a baby with his partner. It didn’t work.
Now they’re halfway through IVF and that’s not going well either.
Remember: many people who want to have kids can never have them.
Your joy could equal their pain. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about, as the cliche goes.
Being polite is the fastest way to get what you want in life.