10 Rude Things Even Polite People Do


Much rudeness is inadvertent. In fact, even the most polite among us probably have some bad habits that make us appear rude when we don't mean to be. (See also: 13 Things People With Good Table Manners Never Do)

Wondering what you do that might come across as impolite? Read below for some ideas.

1. Being "All Business" in Electronic Communication

It's good to be professional and businesslike in your communication, especially when you're doing it for business purposes. When you communicate electronically, though, it's easy to come across as cold, uncaring, and rude when you focus entirely on business. Think about adding on a "How are you?" or "I hope you're doing well," so the person on the other end knows you care.

2. Forgetting to RSVP

Even if you don't know your plans and won't until the last minute, contact the host to let them know. Ask if you can still show up (or bring more people), or if it would be easier to just decline the invitation. Being honest with your host is always better than not responding at all.

3. Not Handling Germs Properly

You're sick. You feel like crap. But you can still cover your mouth (and then not offer the covering hand when you shake hands). Even if you're polite, it's easy to forget to protect others from your germs, especially when you're coughing and sneezing a lot. If you must go out in public, though, make the effort to contain your illness.

4. Focusing Too Much

Focusing in and of itself is not a problem, but when you end up ignoring other people or treating them dismissively, it can come across as rude. If you need to focus intently to do a task, try to do that in a private place. Otherwise, you can figure out a way to not focus so intensely, or you can be sure to apologize and explain — "I was so focused on that task that I didn't see you."

5. Not Cleaning Up After Yourself

Most polite people take pains to clean up any messes they create so that others don't have to. However, in busy or stressful situations, even the most polite person can forget himself and leave a mess behind. If you can't stop at the moment, at least notify someone of the mess and offer to come back later to fix it. They may not take you up on it, but they will know that you care.

6. Giving One-Word Answers

Sometimes, there's just not much to say. While you can be both polite and introspective, or in need of down time, or bereft of words, when someone speaks to you, try to give them a complete answer. If you don't have much to say, tell them, "I don't really have an opinion on that. I'll think about it and get back to you if something comes up."

7. Crossing Your Arms

Crossing your arms is a self-protective gesture, one designed to keep people away from you. You're there, you're in it, so take a deep breath and face the situation in front of you courageously and openly, rather than communicating that you wish you could run and hide.

8. Overusing Sarcasm

Sarcastic humor is often funny at the expense of someone else, and, even if that person thinks you're funny, too, constantly teasing others is not polite. If you can't think of something funny without being sarcastic, it's much more polite to be quiet.

9. Forgetting Cell Phone Etiquette

The whens and hows of being on your cell phone are much debated right now. There are some absolutes, though, that even polite people violate from time to time. It's always rude to interrupt one person by taking a call or text from another. If you are waiting for an important call, at least be sure that the person you're "in person" with knows that and understands why you must take it. And if you're having trouble hearing or being heard during a call, politely hang up and try again later, rather than carrying on a conversation everyone around you can't help but hear.

10. Misusing Social Media

Social media can be a great place to try on a new personality or to be a bit different than who you are in real life. But sometimes even polite people fall into the trap of letting go of their politeness online, because they feel anonymous and it doesn't seem like anyone will get hurt. Be careful, thoughtful, and remember that words hurt whether they are written on a screen or said out loud — be sure that your online persona lines up with your polite, offline one.

Do you consider yourself a polite person? Where do you find yourself falling into rudeness?

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Guest's picture

Might want to rethink adding social notes to business communications: in some workplaces, thank God, you're expected to know the difference between 'personal' and 'professional'.