Politeness Can Be Poisonous - Avoid Short Term Compromises

Dr Edwin Land (the inventor of the Polaroid camera) suggested that “politeness is the poison of collaboration”. While the Polaroid may now be redundant, I think his perspective still has merit. 

His perspective challenges many of the facilitation mantras that say: hold your tongue, mind your manners, dial down some of your views, don’t be critical, move towards a win-win situation, compromise and, if you get stressed, take a break and go out for a while. Have a beer!

But, ironically, being polite (or appearing to be polite – ie. passive aggressive) leaves little chance for us to compromise because by being polite we compromise our own views before we speak.

Also, being polite sometimes weakens important strategic dialogue. We worry about being direct and sometimes cloud the importance of the message we want to give by trying to avoid criticism.  Others around the table don’t know what we really think.

Compromise gives us collaborative victories, but they are often short-term because the underlying disputes and tension were not given an honest airing.

I prefer the term being “respectful” rather than being “polite.”  Being "respectful" allows for disagreement and an openness to entertain honest dialogue with the possibility of finding constructive solutions to fix the root cause of the disagreement in question.

Here is a clip on how to negotiate nicely without being a pushover.