15 Signs You’re Actually Too Polite
You can take politeness too far—it’s time to stop apologizing for everything!
Constantly complimenting people’s appearance
“Oh, you look so skinny!” “Your dress is gorgeous!,” or “Your eyes are the most stunning shade!” may seem like nice compliments at first but compliments about appearance are shallow and may not be received in the same manner you intended, says Bonnie Tsai, etiquette expert and founder and director of Beyond Etiquette. Plus, if you do it constantly, say whenever you meet someone, it can feel overwhelming and insincere. “Offer a sincere compliment on their achievements instead,” she says. And avoid these 16 compliments that are actually insults at all costs.
Giving long answers to questions
You may think you’re being extra polite by giving someone every bit of information they might want in response to a question but most of the time people simply want the basic facts, particularly in a professional setting, says Maryanne Parker, a business and social etiquette consultant in San Diego, author of Posh Overnight, and founder of Manor of Manners. Long answers run the risk of your listener simply tuning you out, she adds. “Keep your answers short and to the point, they’ll ask follow up questions if they need more information,” she says.
Holding eye contact for too long
Some eye contact is a polite way to let the other person know you’re interested and engaged in what they’re saying. But some people take the “maintain eye contact” rule too far and turn it into an aggressive staring match or an uncomfortable crazy-eyed death stare, says Jeff Larsen, LMFT, a manner expert and licensed psychotherapist. “Go for a genuine eye-to-eye contact and then look away every once in a while,” he says. It should feel natural. If you’re not sure, ask a friend to practice with you. Are you doing any of these 14 behaviors that make you look like a jerk?
Being a yes man or woman
Are you the go-to person when people need a favor? While that is a good sign you’re polite, it is something that can easily be taken too far. “You may feel great at the moment when you agreed to help because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, but it could end up negatively impacting your relationship due to resentment and exhaustion,” Tsai explains. Not to mention that if you get overwhelmed and end up not being able to deliver that would be more impolite than simply refusing to do it in the first place.
Using too many superlatives
Saying something is “awesome” or “fantastic” can be a nice compliment but when everything is “AMAZING!” or “FABULOUS!” then you’ve crossed the line from polite to irritating, Larsen says. Use superlatives sparingly and when they are warranted, otherwise they become meaningless, he says. You’ll also want to follow these 50 little etiquette rules everyone should practice.
Hedging your opinions
There’s a difference between trying to see all sides of an issue and trying to be everything to everyone by never actually saying what you think. “You may think you’re being polite by agreeing with everyone but in reality it makes you look weak and indecisive,” Parker says. There are ways to share a dissenting opinion without being offensive or confrontational.
Apologizing for every little thing
Saying “sorry” is a basic rule of politeness but some people use it inappropriately, apologizing for everything. “Being overly apologetic or expressing it in situations where it isn’t necessary can indicate that you have low self-esteem which can cause people to take advantage of it,” Tsai says. Even if you’re not taken advantage of, many people find constant apologizing to be very irritating or may wonder why you’re so afraid of them.
Touching people inappropriately
A firm handshake is polite. After that, physical contact gets murky with what’s considered appropriate depending very much on the situation and the people involved, Larsen says. You may think that giving someone a big bear hug or rubbing their shoulders is a nice way to show your affection but you run the risk of making them very uncomfortable, particularly if the genders are opposite. Keep your hands to yourself, as a general rule, he says. Check out these other secrets your body language may be revealing about you.
Always deferring to others’ preferences
Letting other people make all the decisions may feel appropriate, particularly when you’re dealing with higher-ups in a business setting. However, always asking others to choose puts you at a disadvantage because they will learn not to take you seriously, Parker says. Making others order for you at a restaurant is 20 rude restaurant mistakes you need to quit ASAP.
Failing to speak up
Listening is an important part of politeness—and many people don’t do enough of it—but if you never speak up that’s a problem too, Tsai says. “Being too considerate of others and their right to speak costs you the opportunity to share your insight and personality,” she says. A conversation is a two-way street and it works best when both people use it. Make sure you’re being polite with your tech too: Avoid these 11 times your AirPods make you seem rude.