My wife and I visited a country where politeness was supposedly seen as insincere. Our tour guide advised us to not take offence at being spoken to ‘impolitely’ according to our standards. Is politeness a way to show respect? Is it useful or just insincere and false?
I suggest that it is all three. It is a way of showing respect, expressing gratitude and keeping unpleasant opinions unsaid. It is useful as it helps people to hold back an impulse when hearing an opinion different from your own. It does help people to explore the middle ground in a disagreement and keep a hold on their responses. It can be false. Imagine being asked your opinion about a job and saying the opposite of what you really think to build the confidence of the other.
Think about politeness as a pause before saying what you really think. Think about the effect your words or action will have on the other person rather than just be ‘honest’. Try being polite. I recently allowed a car to enter the stream of traffic in front of me and got a wave. This is polite. I will do it again.