Being polite does not buy you happiness

Undoubtedly, being nice can help you with your own personal happiness. Being nice to others in a time of great need can give you a sense of euphoria. You can get ramped up helping someone out. That is why some people question whether altruism truly exists. I’m not touching that particular question. Its way too deep for my current writing moment where I have been in non-stop multiple, simultaneous meetings till 9pm. I’m walking around in a sleep-deprived state of mind. Thus, no discussions here as to whether altruism truly exists or if its just another form of narcissism.

Let’s move on. How about the opposite of being nice? What about when you are mean to others? Do you get that same sense of euphoria? Just this week, an acquaintance, had a great, feel-good moment when she got to tell someone how wrong they were. She did so in a less than positive tone. Rather angry actually. But considering how infuriatingly wrong (and self-righteous) the other person had been, I didn’t blame her for being mean. And let me tell you, she felt good about it. It gave her a tickle and put a spring in her step. Albeit momentary.


Let’s be real. mean girls (and boys) exist for a reason. It is not just about power. For many, it helps them feel better. But I don’t really want to touch bullying either. Bullying is not a good thing. Period. So, that is not what I am talking about really when talking about being mean in a siatuation for a moment.


Let me back up and talk about politeness. We are brought up to be, more or less, polite to others. It’s the right thing to do. You answer politely. You leave certain things out in conversations, at times, out of politeness.  We hold the door open for those behind us, out of politeness.  That is what you do in civil society. Ostensibly. Its supposed to be good for everyone, including oneself.


Yet, there is new reseach out this week that finds that being polite is not associated with being happy (Kaufman, et al., 2017).  The researchers found that being enthusiastic, a hard worker, compassionate, curious,  and prone to positive thinking is associated with happiness.  Being polite-not so much. I should note that in this research, they were talking about politeness as a personality trait. In popular culture, southerners, for example, are supposedly more poilte. Which I totally do not buy. But that too is a topic for another time.


It might be a bit of a bummer to think that if you are polite, and doing the right thing, you may not be happy.  Or rather, that it will not be associated with you being happy. But on the bright side of things, luckily we have social media to make sure that we can be impolite and thus reach new levels of happiness. That was me being sarcastic.  So much of the conversation that occurs on social media borders or goes beyond rudeness. Its a virtual free for all out there.  Perhaps they are all rebelling against politness for its lack of ability to make one happy?  I would have to question whether those that are so rude out there on social media are truly hapoy by their actions. I am sure many feel a sense of freedom and like a weight has been lifted off of them. But there must be those, as well, that afterwards feel a bit of shame or remorse?


The road to happiness can indeed be so fraught with so many potholes and pitholes.

And although, I am generally a curmudgeon, I still encourage my son to be polite. It is being nice week at school. Which is amazing that such a thing needs to be highlighted but that is a discussion for another time.   And I want him to be nice.  I want him to be polite. I am trying to instill in him a sense of feeling good by being polite and nice.  That being both of those things are rewards in of themselves. But we shall see what the world has in store for this new generation.

Tell me what is your experience…

24 replies »

  1. An excellent and thought provoking post. I think politeness stands on its own. Saying please, thank you, and having good manners are all part of being a decent human being. The link to happiness depends on the response we receive from the person receiving the politeness. For example. If we hold open a door for someone, if they say thank you we feel good. If they ignore the sentiment, maybe angered a little hostile. So I feel we must continue to act in a polite way and enjoy the positive response and ignore the negative. As for happiness, its a bit like coaching, it has been hijacked by the profiteers.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi! Mimi.
    I guess there could be a little personal consideration for benefit should one be polite, but this is probably an after thought.
    Being polite, first and foremost, indicates so much about where a person is at – as does being rude/offensive. It shows outwardly, the method by which someone communicates to the outer world – their inner well being.

    Being polite is a habit and it is a style, it is also just how some of us are.
    It’s as much a part of who we are as what we are.

    So being polite, something I am extremely pleased to have in my own make-up, is simply part of the multi-mix raffle that is DNA.

    I’m pleased I’m not a grump or a swearer. However should that be part of me then maybe my journey would be a little less pleasant.

    I have been reading recently about the psychology of environment on behaviour and sometimes what we do, says most about what conditions are and were like for us, throughout our formative years and by the handing down of ideas from previous generations.

    A provoking topic Mimi and thanks for providing the platform for discussion.B

    Liked by 3 people

    • Very true. I completely agree on how the environment impacts our behavior. We live in a context and that exerts influence.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate the perspective you bting have a great day ahead.


  3. Hmmm first of all, Thank you for this post! 😀 It really made me think about correlation between Happiness and Politeness…

    So…Like everyone, I can only be qualified to give an opinion based on my personal experience. 🙂 Yes and No, are my answers. I guess it’s based on a situation and people that are involved.
    Most of the times when people feel happy it automatically makes them more polite to others. (Vice versa)
    Altruism? Hmm…Yes, I guess it’s for the best not to get into that topic. 😀
    And, when people are acting bad and rude, I make sure that their behavior doesn’t affect my way of responding. Something is happening in their lives that makes them act in a particular way, and it’s non of my business to judge them or make a situation even worse.

    Do people feel better when they lash out at someone? Yes, of course. 🙂 And reasons for that can be various. Nobody has a same mindset…None of us have the same life experiences. 🙂 Who knows what can trigger a certain way of behaving? 😀

    Are people unhappy, even when they are behaving politely? That sure can be true! Some people just don’t want personal stuff to affect their relationships with other people. 🙂 Why should other people suffer for our current bad mood? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I can relate and like your perspective. Often life is indeed all about the context, as you noted. And sometimes we just don’t want to burden others with our stuff. Although sadly for some it then festers..but context is everything.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think being aware of what is considered polite is a good idea as it helps to demonstrate respect in the other person’s language and makes it easier to relate. I think compassion and curiousity are natural ways to cultivate being honest within ourselves, and then choosing how and what we ask of or offer others from the heart. I reckon humans pretty quickly pick up on the intention and goodwill with which we relate to them – regardless of words. How do you feel about this?


  5. I think a problem is that being polite can get in the way of being honest. Lying doesn’t make you happy and I don’t think it’s very useful for anyone really. I think we should aim to empathise and understand others, but not let politeness get in the way of telling the truth.
    Interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think being polite is a way of showing tact and respect for the other person. In this regard, one can cultivate a sense of harmony and in turn a feeling of self-satisfaction. Being polite is a show of civility, which I think we all would want to exercise more often, especially during these times.


  7. So much to ponder here, and some of it comes from the parts you didn’t want to get into in this post. 😉 I’ve long suspected that altruism comes from a kind of narcissism. “Look what an exceptional human I am!” As for being polite, no, it certainly does not bring happiness, because those who are polite often notice when others aren’t and so with it comes irritation and hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting read, with about three other topics hungover till sober or another day. I think it is possible to be nice by default because that’s what we are taught to do, sadly there are times when situations brings out the meanness in one, am not talking about bullying in us, that’s wrong, period. Fact is we can’t please everyone with politeness but we can be polite most of the time, and be blunt in a constructive way. I also agree with that research on what makes one happy, totally logical. In my opinion, I would say maintaining a balance is key to a politely happy life. Being nice brings peace, although external forces will provoke, while I don’t support keeping stuff inward all the time for the sake of being nice, I will support letting out the steam once a while to rid one’s system of all the bad air, sadly this will happen by being a little mean or by punching the bag furiously.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Speaking from personal experience, I can say that sometimes Southerners can be too nice, to the point of endangering other people. That is a story for a different day, though I guess in a way it goes along with my theory that being polite to others can be a selfish act on my part as it makes me feel I am behaving properly.

    Another point about the South and politeness is that they have a polite saying down here – “Bless his/her heart” which is understood as a polite and indirect way to stab that person in the back!


  10. I think politeness can involve suppressing views, feelings and sometimes truths. Unfortunately I was brought up to be very polite so… But great post and thanks for visiting my blog.


  11. Maybe, being too over-polite can be dishonest … like wanting to please people instead of being in our own integrity. Anyway, I have a spiritual teacher J-R who sometimes will call people on their stories and do so with a whole lot of caring, compassion and loving.
    Good post. Interesting research by Kaufman ❤


I welcome your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s