Beware of Being “Violently Polite”

A colleague recently shared a success story with me.

She said, “We’ve finally addressed the problem we had with people being ‘violently polite’. Once we put this label on the passive-aggressive talk, and the avoidance of speaking up, we started to get more engagement.”

How cool! I immediately fell in love with this term.

Asking people to avoid being “violently polite” seems less confrontational, more light-hearted, and yet even more precise than some of the alternatives:

“You need to speak up more in meetings. You’re too agreeable.”

“This team needs to knock off this passive-aggressive nonsense. I know we’ve got meetings after the meetings going on here.”

“Maybe people would gossip less if you’d actually say what you’re thinking when it’s the right time to do so.”


“It’s time that we stop being ‘violently polite’.”

Love it. Genius.

Try it with your team and see what happens.

4 Responses

  1. Steve struhar
    | Reply

    Reminds me of being maliciously obedient.

    • Alan Feirer
      | Reply

      Oh, Steve – that’s another good one. Thanks for that. I like it.

  2. Tom Henricksen
    | Reply

    Perhaps its our Iowa or Midwest Nice showing too much! Share your opinion.

    • Alan Feirer
      | Reply

      I used to think that, Tom – but not anymore. Maybe in informal or volunteer interactions, but in the workplace? It’s trust and vulnerability and willingness to be specific. I know Iowa teams who have that nailed, and I know coastal teams that struggle. And the “Midwest Nice” stereotype exists because of some accuracy, but there’s also a passive-aggressive stereotype that plagues Southern California, or the vagueness of “Southern hospitality.” Every region has the struggle, yet has a different way it gets “typed.”

      This is opinion, folks – no data here.

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