Politeness is nothing but good manners. Behaving with others, not rudely or harshly, but in a courteous manner, be the person a wealthy man or a street beggar, is politeness. A readiness to oblige others by doing small acts of courtesy is the essential factor of this quality.
One who is lacking in this quality and is unwilling to do a good turn to another, however trifling it might be, is guilty of rudeness, which is just the opposite of politeness. If we are asked for some information by a person, who is badly in need of it, it should be our duty to help him by supplying him with the required information if possible. Even if we cannot supply him with the information, we should not turn our backs upon him rudely, but should tell him courteously that we are not in a position to help him. This is the essence of politeness.
Politeness presupposes the qualities of modesty and humility. To be polite, it is essential that one should oneself be modest. One who has a high notion of one’s own self and looks upon others with contempt cannot possibly be polite. The reason is that he considers it beneath his dignity to help someone, considered inferior to him, by so much as a word. It is very easy to be polite.
Politeness does not cost one anything, nor does it demand any great sacrifice. A slight exertion on one’s part, or it may be some inconvenience, will be all that is necessary for a man to be polite. Opportunities for the exercise of politeness present themselves to us every moment of our life and in every place, whether on the street, in a train, on board a steamer, or in a market place.
Politeness is a quality which lends charm to a person. Just as one likes to look at a beautiful thing. so one likes to mix intimately with a polite man. Politeness is even more valuable than beauty, for while the latter is not permanent, the former lasts as long as a polite man is alive. Good and refined manners make such an impression upon our minds that long after the person in whom we noticed them has gone away from our presence, we retain a vivid recollection of his manners and feel eager to have him in our company again.
A man may be very learned, but if he is not polite his educational qualifications are as good as useless, for he cannot be agreeable to those with whom he comes in contact. On the other hand, an illiterate person, if he is polite in his behavior and is of an obliging disposition, wins the love and affection of his fellowmen such is the magic influence of good manners. A man who is polite by nature finds joy and delight in acting politely towards others for he is conscious that by so doing he adds something, however little it might be, to the comfort and convenience of another in need of these.