Politeness and the case of using ‘please’ and ‘thank you’

How perceived experiences in using these two words can deviate while communicating in English. [A post for Dutchies.]

Dutchies are often described as being [intentionally] rude when they communicate in English; this is obviously quite harsh.

One of the ways in which this can be explained is that some markers of politeness and common courtesy are missing in the way an L1 speaker of English and monolingual would expect this to be done when navigating social traffic.

Did you know that NOT using ‘please’ and ‘thanks’ can come across as: ‘ordering someone around’ and thus placing yourself in a superior position’?

This is a communicative effect of missing markers of politeness, like this.

Although such markers may be used as a result of a lack of awareness, most Dutchies do not seem to use the exact same markers of politeness in Dutch social interactions either. [This is called: a result of linguistic transfer.] Most only seem to do this in very formal situations, when distance is created or for other reasons.

Many Dutchies have specifically indicated to feel like they would appear to be submissive when using ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’.

Clearly, this would not be the actual communicative effect because politeness markers are just social lubricants; they make things go more pleasantly and smoothly in natural language use.

So, while language use can make us feel a particular way, these Dutchies would not necessarily be correct in their hypothesis that it actually would make them inferior or appear submissive when using such generally accepted pleasantries.

Intercultural competence is about meeting each other at least halfway so as to show intent accurately and communicate in a way that can be described as being ‘collaborative’ and ‘socially appropriate’.

How different this is in contact languages [i.e. pidgins] where language is developed spontaneously between its users, no rules would exist yet, and no social expectations would be present. Clearly, this is different for languages that already have rules, even when they are used as a lingua franca.

What the experiences of those (under)using these two tiny words have perhaps taught us is that they have a communicative impact on how we perceive ourselves and others.

Not using these two words can thus also create a similarly uncomfortable feeling in others who would have appreciated that sort of thing being used.

It has led to statements like ‘the Dutch are just rude’.

We’re not.

We perhaps just have to tweak our own perceptions sometimes as this would benefit everyone and accommodate those expectations of others whose L1 is English or who would just expect it as common courtesy.

The bottom line and why you should: while demonstrating being an effective communicator, you will gain more perceived authority, competence and charisma.

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