Psychologists say that although being polite helps get us through awkward social situations, it can have hidden perils in emergencies.
They found that our tendency to be vague and evasive in order to spare someone’s feelings can cause confusion when a person’s safety is at risk.
Examples include a nurse failing to spell out a doctor’s potential error to avoid embarrassment, or an air controller lacking assertiveness with a pilot in trouble.
The study, published in the journal Current Directions In Psychological Science, said we resort to “politeness strategies” when forced to point out someone’s mistake or bad choice. Jean-Francois Bonnefon, of the University of Toulouse in France, said: “Politeness can become problematic when it causes us to sacrifice clarity.
“This confusion is especially likely to occur in high-stakes situations, the very situations in which we are most likely to use politeness strategies.”
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