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Science Says You Need To Be Wary Of Overly Polite People, Here’s Why

Science Says You Need To Be Wary Of Overly Polite People, Here’s Why

Just met someone at a party and they’re a little too nice to you already? Out at a concert or sporting event and someone is being overly polite? You can really get thrown off by someone who is kissing up to you out of the blue. Do they like you that much? Are they trying to tell you something you’re unaware of? Are they trying to get something from you? All of these questions and more can race through your head when you meet someone who is overly polite.

Research that was released in December 2015 shows you might be best taking these people’s behavior with a grain of salt at first. Social politeness and common courtesies are one thing, but if an individual is buttering you up out of nowhere, this could be an unwelcome sign.

The Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics in Beijing (AMACL) just released their findings that those who are “excessively polite” are considerably more likely to betray peers or comrades than those who are not effusively polite. The researchers at AMACL engaged in an in-depth study of Diplomacy, a strategy-oriented game in which players simulate pre-WWI Europe.

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Diving Into Diplomacy

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    Instead of having dice, decks of cards or other familiar formalities of gaming, the players rely solely on their communication and social manipulation skills. The game is aptly titled, therefore, as forming alliances diplomatically becomes the true essence of the game. The researchers then attempted to obtain clues of oncoming action based on the dialogues between players.

    As it turned out, there emerged rock-solid examples of betrayal that AMACL observed in their report. Perhaps most shockingly, the scientists discovered one of the most predictable signs of imminent backstabbing is sudden changes in conversational tone. Conversations would morph from average or uneventful to contain “patently evident positive sentiment, structured discourse and overt politeness”.

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    Overly Polite, Sinister Forces

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      In one particularly elucidating conversation, Germany and Austria were talking about how to combine forces to eliminate certain threats. Austria readily agreed to Germany’s suggestion to move armed forces east, but then Austria swiftly invaded Germany, throwing their entire conversation out the window and negating trust.

      In conjunction with this report, Science News commented that clearly, playing nice and being overly polite is a great war strategy. For those who are not in-the-know and generally unsuspecting, it becomes effective to put on a bright face for everyone and then strike where you desire when people least expect it.

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      As it turns out, even a computer used this information to accurately predict betrayal 57 percent of the time. This is a surprisingly high rate, especially considering that the only cues to be used are linguistic in nature.

      Applying This To The Real World

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        As telling and intriguing as this study is, there hasn’t been enough reliable data collected to see these concepts work in the real world. Being overly polite in a game of Diplomacy might only carry benefit as far as recreational, play-oriented boundaries extend. In order to manifest truly viable data to be used in real-life situations, there would have to be a deeper, closer look at regular humans going about their day.

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        According to Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, a computer scientist at Cornell University, while this study yields valuable information, it should not be used as a sole basis for making decisions about other people. His standpoint is that watching the overall balance of language and behavior in a relationship between two people is a stronger sign of future behavior. Judging if someone’s being overly polite does have its place in making rational judgments for yourself, but it should be taken within the context of the larger relationship.

        photo credit: Pinterest

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        Brad Johnson

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        Last Updated on December 3, 2019

        10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

        10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

        There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

        Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

        1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

        Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

        There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

        Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

        2. Pace Yourself

        Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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        Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

        Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

        3. You Can’t Please Everyone

        “I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

        You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

        Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

        4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

        Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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        We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

        Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

        5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

        “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

        No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

        We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

        6. It’s Not All About You

        You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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        It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

        7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

        No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

        We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

        Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

        8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

        That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

        Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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        Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

        9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

        Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

        The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

        10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

        We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

        When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

        Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

        This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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        Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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