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Politeness Judo

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Homer: I know! I'll throw my own barbecue! It'll be the best barbecue anyone ever had, and I'll only invite who I want! That'll show you!
Ned: Can I come?
Homer: Sure — D'oh!

Human beings are social creatures and conditioned to respond in certain ways to social niceties. Oftentimes, these pre-programmed responses can slip by our conscious attention, resulting in us agreeing to something we hadn't intended to. Politeness Judo is the art of taking advantage of simple courtesy exchanges to get one's way.

Note that this will often fail if the target has No Social Skills and doesn't respond with the appropriate formula.

In comedy series and family sitcoms, it's not uncommon for a parent, friend, or love interest to vehemently object to helping the protagonist with something she wants to know or do. The Straight Man is usually being contrary because he's looking out for his own interests; though he might rationalize it as him "knowing better" or to help the protagonist, it's only rarely because what's asked is a truly bad idea. He'll rail and boast that nothing will change his mind, and there's no way that the protagonist will get his permission, help, or the information she wants out of him.

The protagonist asks one simple question, cordially phrased and without shouting... and the Straight Man agrees nonchalantly. Usually he'll do a Double Take and realize he said yes offhand. He either forgot his original outrageously contrarian position, got thrown off by the polite tone, or was holding out for that "please".

See also: Duck Season, Rabbit Season; Passive-Aggressive Kombat, Minnesota Nice, Japanese Politeness, and Compliment Fishing. Not to be confused with Verbal Judo or Outhumbling Each Other. Also not to be confused with Politeness Jiu-Jitsu.

Someone who is Silk Hiding Steel will likely be skilled in this.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Attempted by the Ninth Minene in Future Diary when she demands the policeman Nishijima remove her handcuffs so she could go to the bathroom. She demands the first few times, then tries 'How about you remove them for a sec?' (or something similar), with a politer smile. It still fails.
  • Hellsing - The Catholic Church Militant shadow organization Iscariot land in undead-infested London and run into the Protestant-backed Hellsing, with whom they butt heads at every excuse necessary. One tense dialogue later and Iscariot finds themselves escorting Hellsing head Integra because she was that damn good at asking nicely.
  • In Bokurano, some officers from Japan's Self-Defense Forces are trying to get Koyemshi to let them investigate Zearth and gain a better understanding of it, but Koyemshi refuses. Tanaka then gets on Koyemshi's good side by addressing him as "Koyemshi-san", and politely asking him to investigate the robot. When he refuses her again, she withdraws her request and instead asks to simply observe the children piloting it as their guardians. Koyemshi's a bit impressed, and agrees to let them take a look inside.
  • In The Demon Girl Next Door, while trying to invade Momo's subconscious Yuko can't get past a door specially designed to keep out demons. How does Yuko get through? By making a lunch box and politely asking Momo to let her in.
  • Played literally for laughs in Girls und Panzer das Finale. Miho defeats Murakami in a fistfight by bowing apologetically and catching her in the stomach, resulting in the latter being launched over former's head when she straightened up.

  • Drawn With the Night: Klein is forced to go before Princess Celestia at the toy fair, something he really doesn't want to do after being forcefully brought into Equestria and viciously interrogated and imprisoned by Twilight and Luna and thinks that angry accusations in public would give them the excuse they need to drag them back to Equestria at best, or silence him permanently at worst. When he appears at the princesses' table, he engages in an elaborate and archaic show of reverence, and politely but firmly tells them to stay out of his life, all while addressing them in an extremely sycophantic tone. The bowing mortifies the princess, and the cold shoulder proves to have more of an impact on them than screaming and yelling would.
  • In Sekirei? Is that some new species of little sister?, Naruto and Xanna decide to screw with the various major religions. When Naruto goes to the Dalai Lama and uses Sexy Jutsu then "puts on a show", the Dalai Lama very politely asks him not to do that, which gets Naruto to leave. Naruto later confesses to Takami that it's no fun messing with people who legitimately don't get upset.
  • In Deus Ex Machina, Giorno is redoing the events of Vento Aureo and remembers that Abbacchio is going to offer him a teacup filled with pee. When he gets to that part, Giorno mentions that he's half-Japanese and makes up some BS about how it's very rude for a guest to begin eating or drinking before a host in Japan. It impresses the gang and stalls long enough for Bruno to get back so Giorno doesn't have to drink the pee.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played more seriously in The Great Escape - Bartlett and Macdonald are questioned while trying to pass off as Frenchmen to get on a bus to Switzerland. They almost make it, until one of the Germans wishes them "Good luck" in English... and Macdonald responds with a reflexive "Thank you". It was Macdonald who had warned Bartlett about this trick. This really happened to an American POW.
  • In Labyrinth, Sarah has to cross a bridge guarded by Sir Didymus. Sir Didymus adamantly refuses to let her because "Nobody is permitted to cross without my permission!" Hoggle gets over the bridge while Sir Didymus is distracted, and Ludo tries to brute-force his way across. Sarah had to think of another way and so simply asked for permission. Sir Didymus is surprised at this and stammers, "Ummm... yes?" Evidently nobody had thought to just ask before.
  • Mary Poppins: Mary wins a horse race by politely asking the lead racers to let her pass. Bonus points for the shocked look on their faces once they realize what she's done (though part of it could be she is on a wooden carousel horse, complete with brass pole bobbing in and out of the dirt track). Yes, she is just that awesome.
  • Subverted in Ant-Man. Scott tries this when Falcon catches him at Avengers headquarters, introducing himself and explaining he needs to borrow a device for a few days. However, since Scott is trespassing on a restricted facility, Falcon doesn't listen and immediately tries to take him into custody, which leads to a battle between the two.

  • In A Wizard of Earthsea, the last task the apprentice wizard Sparrowhawk must achieve before he leaves the school on island of Roke as a fully-fledged wizard is to discover the name of the Master Doorkeeper. Since a wizard will always protect the secret of his name, he thinks long and hard about what form of magic he could use to wrest the information from the vastly more powerful Master Doorkeeper. Eventually he goes before the master and admits he must give up, but only after asking one simple question: "What is your name?" The Master Doorkeeper cheerfully gives him the answer: politely requesting his name was in fact the solution to the test.
  • Happens a lot in Jane Austen's novels, in particular Pride and Prejudice - Elizabeth mostly uses it to get out of talking to people she doesn't like, and Miss Bingley tries and fails to get Darcy to pay attention to her with it. A bit of a necessity in Austen's day if you wanted to disagree with anyone.
  • The Dresden Files
    • In the first book, Storm Front, Susan gets Harry to agree to a date by playing her "reporter for trashy tabloid" role and asking him a series of easy questions, slipping the date one in near the end. Harry doesn't get what hit him, but the barman does (and as usual, wisely says nothing).
    • Also happens a fair bit when they're dealing with denizens of the Nevernever.
    • In Changes, Harry and some enemies accidentally fall into the hall of the Erlking who (sarcastically) refers to them as "guests". Harry quickly thanks him for his hospitality, binding them into a contract and obliging the Erlking to help him out. Being the Erlking, he is not so much annoyed by this as he is impressed, equating Harry to a wily fox. Also being the Erlking, he still almost manages to kill Harry without raising a finger. The only problem with this is how the hospitality extends to the enemies who landed with him, and they claim Harry sought to bring them here for the Erlking to attack. Harry ends up having to prove his claim is true by combat.
  • In the James Bond novel You Only Live Twice, the head of Japan's secret intelligence service, Tiger Tanaka, explains to Bond that Japanese criminals will stop and surrender when ordered to by the authorities, because of the Japanese culture.
  • In the novel Red Square, one of the sequels to Gorky Park, a German police officer tells the joke about how Germans wouldn't do something illegal because "it's against the law".
  • Ephraim Kishon wrote a satirical story about this, set in Britain, going so far that people would rather kill each other than go through a door first.
  • In Children of the Mind Peter Wiggin and Si Wang-Mu travel to a Japanese-culture planet which values politeness and humility. Wang-Mu gets into a contest of trying to be more humble and self-effacing than the old man they're interviewing. He eventually seems to relent and give up and Wang-Mu silently gloats, then realizes he probably ceded out of courtesy.
  • Invoked in one of the stories in Spider Robinson's Callahan's Lady in which a Mad Scientist creates a device that allows her to get people to do anything she wants as long as she says "Please".
  • In I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany follows up a sudden appearance in Letitia's room with a few remarks on her guard's unprofessional attitude, goes on to note that people are much less likely to scream for help if someone is talking to them, then speculates that it may be due to this trope.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Sansa Stark is skilled in this... mainly out of necessity, and care of having most other means of attack and defence stripped from her in the hostile Decadent Court settings she finds herself plunked in. As a result, she's getting better at it, as well as some of the other skills in the Passive-Aggressive Kombat set. Throwing almost painfully correct manners and exceedingly polite phrases into the ring to box her opponent into semi-socially acceptable behavior remains her number one, go-to weapon of choice, however: no matter how many other skills she gains. She even manages to trip the invariably rude Joffrey up with this a time or two... when he's stuck with an audience.
    Sansa: Courtesy is a lady's armor.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle: In The Wise Man's Fear, Kvothe spins this into a respected position when he visits the Vintish court. As an outsider enjoying the Maer's hospitality, courtly etiquette suggests that the nobles treat him as an equal until they can determine how his pedigree compares to the Vintish ranking system. He draws this out until his assumed rank settles somewhere in the middle of the noble hierarchy, and the court remains none the wiser that he's a penniless commoner in his homeland.
  • In The Cinder Spires's first book, The Aeronaut's Windlass, Captain Grimm's good manners save his life twice unknowingly in his interactions with Ax-Crazy Madame Cavendish. She is hyper-sensitive to breaches of etiquette, and even though she recognized Grimm and was deeply involved in plans to destroy him, her etherialist compulsion forced her to remain pleasant in the face of Grimm's gentlemanly courtesy.
  • Any interaction between witches in the Discworld. Possibly as an evolved response against the sort of magical battle that could make Hiroshima look like a firework, two witches who completely loathe and utterly despise each other will make a big point of escalating politeness and bows that very nearly touch the ground. This is not a comfort to observers. When two wizards resort to extreme politeness, observers should duck for a deep bomb-proof shelter.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Amazing Race: This was one of the things that made Nat & Kat so effective on Season 17. In a game where even the most congenial people will lose it from time to time, Nat & Kat kept their decorum for the entire race, never even showing frustration with each other.
  • In Community, Annie convinces Jeff to help Pierce reconnect with his ex-step daughter via this trope.
  • In one episode of Angel, Gunn needs to infiltrate a rich Japanese man's party, but is about to be picked up by the guards, who know he isn't supposed to be there. Seeing the host nearby, he very graciously greets the man, and presents him with a gift. The host allows them into the party. He then reveals to his accomplice that he was in fact counting on the host's Japanese Politeness to get them invited in in such a manner.
  • Game of Thrones: Sansa's main weapon when she engages in Passive-Aggressive Kombat.
    Sansa: You're right, Your Grace, I'm stupid. Of course you'll be in the vanguard.
  • In Sherlock John is denying that he shot a serial killer when Sherlock calls him out on it.
    Sherlock: Are you all right?
    John: Yes, of course I'm all right.
    Sherlock: Well, you have just killed a man.
    John: Yes, well... [realizes what he's just said] That's true, isn't it? But, he wasn't a very nice man.
  • Done in an episode of Only Fools and Horses in a similar way to the Zen master below. In order to get a cheaper round, Del bets Mike the barman he can make him turn his hands over without touching them:
    [Mike puts his hand out]
    Del: No, the other way.
    [Mike turns them over; Del puts a note in this hand and walks away with the drinks]
  • In Full House, DJ plots to get her dad together with a lady-friend of his, and recruits little sister Stephanie to help. Stephanie says she has a plan to get the lady to stay for lunch. The plan? They ask her.
  • In Bunheads, the girls are trying to sit together in a crowded movie theater. After various maneuverings the last obstacle is an old man who stubbornly refuses to be tricked or pushed into moving. Finally Melanie just asks him if he could move so their friend can sit with them and he does.
  • If I Ruled The World: One of the regular rounds was answering questions without using the words 'Yes' or 'No'. In series 2, episode 4, the round began thus:
    Clive Anderson: So, we'll start with you, Jeremy. Is that all right with you?
    Jeremy Hardy: Yes.
  • Mad TV has a sketch about a serial killer the police have been unable to catch because he's so charismatic that they end up socialising with him and letting him go.

    Mythology and Legends 
  • Japanese Mythology:
    • Kappa have a hollow on the top of their head that must stay full of water, or else they're incapacitated. Since they are very polite, one way to defeat one is to bow to them, at which point they will bow back and spill the water. Also, it is said that if you help them by filling the hollow back up, they will serve you loyally. Third, they are not stupid as the previous line would seem to indicate.
    • The kuchisake-onna, or slit-mouthed woman, is a strange woman in a surgical mask. She'll approach you and ask if she's beautiful. Saying no will enrage her and she'll kill you with her scissors because her ego is fragile. Saying yes will prompt her to reveal her mutilated face and ask again. Saying no at this point will also get you killed, but saying yes again will make her slash you to match her because the Japanese word for "pretty" (kirei) pretty much sounds like a word meaning "to cut" (kire) and she is also apparently fueled by puns. However, in addition to giving a vague in-between answer or scattering objects for her to pick up, you can escape her by saying you're sorry, but you need to be somewhere else right now. In response, she will bow and apologize for delaying you and let you be on your way.
  • In some versions of the Twelve Labors of Hercules, Atlas succumbs to this trope after conning Hercules into holding up the sky in his place. Hercules politely asks Atlas to resume holding it up while he fetches a cushion for his shoulders, hands his burden back to him, then leaves him like that.

  • The Goon Show:
    • In "The Treasure of Loch Lomond", Neddie Seagoon is hiding from the police, and goes to extreme lengths to hide and disguise himself. He then opens the door to a policeman who asks "Neddie Seagoon?" Without missing a beat, Neddie says yes. Judging by the resigned tone of his voice, it is more an admission of his Critical Camouflage Failure.
    • In "The Tay Bridge", Seagoon answers the telephone at the Scottish Labour Exchange. Afraid that the caller might offer him a job, he answers:
      Seagoon: 'Allo, Israeli Embassy Golders Green 'ere.
      Jim Spriggs: Hello. Hello. Is that the Scottish Labour Exchange?
      Seagoon: Yes. Oh, I've given it away!
  • Often invoked in Were You Raised by Wolves?. Direct communication in a polite manner is often the solution that the co-hosts offer.

  • Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance ends with Politeness Judo. Following a pitched battle between the Policemen and the Pirate Crew, the Policemen are defeated, until they sing: "We charge you yield, we charge you yield, / In Queen Victoria's name!" The Pirates' response? "We yield at once, with humbled mien, / Because, with all our faults, we love our Queen."

    Video Games 
  • Academagia: It has least a few examples this trope in the various Adventures and Events, but the most egregious example is a game mechanic. With a very high Calligraphy skill your character has access to an Action called Create Formal Invitation. When this action is used on another student it's possible to create a written request so elegant in form and content that it compels the recipient to agree, basically allowing you to control them for up to two days! The only way to gain more control over another character is through Mastery spells, and that's a highly prohibited form of magic. Furthermore, unlike most other available ways to force NPCs to do specific things, it won't worsen your relationship or be considered a hostile act.
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations:
    Godot: You did it, didn't you?
    Ron DeLite: Yes.
    Phoenix: ...What?
    Ron DeLite: Er...I mean no! No no no no no! I didn't do it!
    Judge: For a second, I thought we had set the record for the shortest trial ever.
  • In the Mass Effect 3 DLC Citadel, when Shepard needs to get past a locked gate, s/he finds a scared Volus hiding behind a window. Shepard readies his/her gun only to have the current squad mate knock on the glass and politely ask him to unlock the gate for them, which he does.
    Shepard: Well, I could have done that.
  • Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism has this exchange.
    Marisa: That's it, now just tell me your weak point, please.
    Yuugi: I'm one of the four Devas of the Mountain, Yuugi the Strong. My weak point is fried beans, of coursenote .
    Marisa: Huh, I wish they'd all been this cooperative. Too bad I don't have any fried beans on me.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins you meet a swamp witch who has made off with some documents you need. You can threaten her, try to smooth talk her or... ask nicely. She responds best to this, as does her mother.
    Flemeth: Such manners! And always in the last place you expect. Like stockings.
  • As ambassador and PR expert for the Inquisition, this is Josephine's specialty. She disarms people with sweetness and good breeding faster than most of the warriors can with their weapons.
  • In Pillars of Eternity, a Watcher with a high enough Resolve score can infiltrate a group of cultists without simply asking nicely if they can borrow another cultist's mask.
    Aloth: You can't be serious.
  • When Henry tries to invade the Toppats' base in the Stickmin Space Resort path from The Henry Stickmin Series: Completing the Mission, he gets past the first guard by simply stopping and asking for permission. The guard realizes a few seconds too late what happened.
  • Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous: Ember appears to have the supernatural ability to induce this trope in anyone, including demons, simply by asking nicely and being nice to people. Characters like Seelah and Wojif are usually stumped when interacting with her, Daeran just gives up because his barbs do not even register and Ember has no buttons for him to push and even Nocticula gets upset by the fact that Ember will not seeing the good in them and ignores all their protestations. The only two people on Golarion who seem to be immune to this effect are Hulrun and Camilla.

    Web Animation 

  • This Girl Genius comic has Moloch Von Zinzer objecting to becoming one of Agatha's minions (something most sparks can force non-sparks to do by force of personality) with the following exchange.
    Moloch: I'm nobody's 'Happy Little Helper', got it?!
    Agatha: Got it.
    Moloch: Good!
    Agatha: So — I should get started. Can you help me carry these tools?
    Moloch: Oh, yeah. Sure.
  • Subverted twice in the Space Tree episode The Sanctity.
    Space Tree: Hey Commander, you should totally marry that guy.
    Commander: Okay! ... Wait a second. No!
    Space Tree: Well, I'm out of ideas.
    Mee: Don't worry Space Tree, I've got a backup plan that never fails.
    Mee: Hey Commander, you should totally marry that guy.
    Commander: Okay! ... Wait a second. No!
    Mee: It's like he's always one step ahead!
  • Hark! A Vagrant has the President Of the United States use this on a mob of angry Canadians. "Don't worry, I know their weakness."
    President: Why hello! It's so nice to see you all!
    Canadian 1: It's... so nice to be here.
    Canadian 2: ...Thank you.
    • Another comic on the same page shows a Canadian finding his wife with another man. All three immediately start apologizing to each other.
  • This exchange from Nukees, as Gav, who prides himself on being entirely amoral, turns to leave a church after a conversation with the Good Shepherd:
    Priest: Peace be with you.
    Gav: (automatically) And also with you. (Step, step, pause, facepalm).
    Priest: (grinning) This isn't your first time in a Catholic church, is it?
    Gav: Damn you people and your repetitive conditioning!
  • In Freefall Florence uses this to distract the guard long enough to steal the remote that he can use to put her to sleep.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court as part of an assignment Kat and Antimony discover a labyrinth in the library in which resides a Minotaur. Instead of screaming and running, which most people would do, Annie politely greets the creature. It works out well for them.
  • Narbonic: Mell, who's been sent to kill Dr. Narbon, thinks it over and decides that Dr. Narbon is far smarter than her and would see through any tricks she tried to gain entrance to the lair. Her method for getting in? Showing up at the front door with a box of wine and announcing exactly why she's there.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: The deaceased Christian pastor's strategy for handling the bunch of hostile ghosts who are trying to harm the crew is to welcome them as if they were long-expected guests.
  • The Order of the Stick: In "Hole in the Wall", Elan almost succeeds in getting an enemy to move aside for him just by asking politely — the enemy in question starts to comply just on reflex.

    Western Animation 
  • When Zim, eponymous lead of Invader Zim, has Dib and Gaz captured on his space station:
    Zim: You can't escape by teleporter little Gaz, I've cut the power. Your pitiful attempt to escape is nothing but a PITIFUL FAILURE! Stupid, stinking humans!
    Gaz: Doesn't this spaceship have any escape pods?
    Zim: Of course; they're right over there. Stupid, stinking humans...wait!
    • The Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom.
      Dib: Hey! The only way out is through my head! Anything happens to me and you're stuck here forever!
      Zim: Bah, CURSE YOOUUUU- Wait. I can still do stuff to your legs, right?
      Dib: I guess, but- wait! No!
    • "Backseat Drivers From Beyond the Stars":
      Zim: Watch, Dib! Watch as I bring a royal audience to the downfall of the human race!
      Dib: ...I don't wanna watch that!
      Zim: Oh, okay. [Double Take] WAIT! THAT'S TOO BAD!
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998)
    • In the finale every major villain up to that point had been fighting with the girls and amongst each other to get their hands on a key which would grant them legal dominion over the world. When the girls finally manage to get it back to the Mayor, he goes off on a speech about how they learned a valuable lesson about responsibility. Mojo Jojo takes this time to walk up behind him and ask to see it. Mayor casually hands it over.
    • In a different episode, Bubbles gets a very powerful giant monster to leave town by asking it nicely after Blossom and Buttercup's alternating strategies (tactics vs. full frontal assault) don't work. Bubbles then turns on her bickering sisters:
      "There! That's how you get rid of a monster, YOU BIG, FAT, DOODOO-HEADED NINNIES!"
      "And So The Day Is Saved thanks to...Bubbles!"
  • On The Simpsons, Homer gets jealous of Flanders' family barbecue, resulting in the page quote.
  • In Samurai Pizza Cats: The main characters are trying to get a scientist's assistance, with the catch that he won't tell them what they need to do to get his help. It turns out all they had to do... was give up.
  • Xiaolin Showdown: Omi was trying to steal a pebble from Grand Master Dashi to prove his worth. In the end, after Dashi trounced every other one of Omi's attempts, he hands the pebble over without hesitation when Omi asks "May I please have the pebble?"
    • Note that Dashi's phrasing was important. He specifically said that Omi would have proved his worth when he could get the pebble from Dashi's hand-not take the pebble from his hand. It was Omi's own preconceptions about what he should be doing in this situation that had him expending so much effort to finally reach a simple solution (which has bitten him in the butt before - in one episode Omi is the quickest to complete a circular obstacle course and "rescue" the toy puppy at the end by passing through all the obstacles, but Clay is judged by their teacher to be the winner because he reasoned that the puppy was behind him, and there was no reason to exert himself if he could turn around and snatch the dog from the jaws of death in about three seconds).
    • The other reason Dashi chose to do it that way? "It was funny".
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Deduce, You Say!", Daffy Duck (as "brilliant detective" Doorlock Homes) is unable to subdue the Shropshire Slasher with brute force. Porky Pig (as his assistant, Dr. Watkins) simply asks the Slasher to please give himself up, and the Slasher agrees instantly. When his mother (who apparently had the foresight to name him "Shropshire Slasher") comes in and scolds him, he escorts her home, saying, "I promised the nice man I'd turn myself in, muvver." "You always wuz a good boy, Slasher."
  • Happens rather literally in one episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy, where Eddy and Kevin pretend to be nice to each other, shaking hands... and flipping each other onto his back in sequence ("After you!" *SLAM!* "No, I insist!" *SLAM!*).
  • In Gargoyles, Xanatos' first two plans fall through, so he brings up a third about tricking the gargoyles into doing the work for him. Goliath appears and reveals he heard it all, asking "I don't suppose you have a Plan D?". Without missing a beat, Xanatos implements Plan D: asking nicely for Goliath to do the task, pointing out how it's in his best interests as well. This one didn't work either. Goliath initially refused his request. Once Goliath had had a little while to calm down and consider the request, he changed his mind and agreed.
  • One episode of South Park contains an entire family that uses this trope, being so supernaturally friendly that possessing ill will towards them is fairly impossible. Two characters wonder what exactly happened after they started fights that ended by inviting/being invited to dinner. Answer: they're Mormons.
  • In the first Season Finale of Codename: Kids Next Door, Numbah One has been turned into an adult by the Delightful Children From Down the Lane. After a fight for the age-changer between the rest of the Kids Next Door and the Delightful Children, Adult-One bursts in on the scene, and asks for it. When asked why, Mr. Uno responds he's an adult, and goody-goodies like the Delightful Children always obey adults.
    Delightful Children: ...No fair!
  • In The Legend of Korra, Tarrlok interrupts Tenzin's family at dinner in order to speak to Korra. When Tenzin points out that they're in the middle of a meal, Tarrlok counters with the rules of Airbender hospitality saying to never turn away a guest asking for a meal. Tenzin is not pleased, but those are the rules of Airbender etiquette, so he reluctantly allows Tarrlok to stay (much to the chagrin of his wife).
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode, "The Cutie Re-Mark," one of the most insidious and yet bizarrely effective ways Starlight interferes with history is when she genuinely reforms the bullies harassing Fluttershy, and thereby removes a central motivation for Dash to do the critical Sonic Rainboom. As Starlight anticipated, Twilight Sparkle finds herself put in the sickeningly impossible position of trying to undo this tactic for the greater good of restoring history to avert several Bad Future scenarios and finds that her conscience can't allow it.
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Upgrade," Gumball and Darwin are riding on a new Bobert, chasing the plane that has the old Bobert. When Gumball proposes that new Bobert blow the plane's back door open, Darwin tells them that's too dangerous. The three of them pull up to the door, and Darwin knocks on it while politely asking for the door to open. It abruptly opens and hits them, knocking them off-course.
  • In the Kaeloo episode "Let's Play Musical Chairs", where the characters are, well, playing musical chairs, Mr. Cat and Stumpy find themselves vying for the last available chair. Mr. Cat says "After you," and Stumpy politely responds with "No, after you," so Mr. Cat takes the chair and Stumpy loses.
  • The Family Guy episode "One If By Clam, Two If By Sea" has the guys storm the new British Drunken Clam in full Revolutionary War attire, spraying beer on all the patrons. How does the new owner get them to leave?
    Nigel: Very well then. If you refuse to go peaceably, I'm afraid we'll have to use our superior linguistic skills to convince you to leave.
    Peter: Oh, yeah? Just try it!
    [Cut to the guys politely leaving the bar]
    Quagimire: Gosh, I never saw it that way...wait a minute, how the Hell did they do that!?

    Real Life 
  • There is a story about a man who declares that he is too smart to bow to the will of a Zen master who is giving a lecture. The master invites the man to stand beside him so they can debate the issue. The man stands beside the master. The master then asks the man to stand on his other side so everybody can hear him. The man does so. Then the master suggests they both stand on the other side of the room so the students can have a better view. The man stands on the other side of the room. The Zen master then points out that the man had done everything he asked and continued his lecture. At this the man was enlightened.
  • Psychological studies have shown that people are far more likely to allow you to cut in front of them in line if you simply ask them. This nearly doubles if you give them a reason, even if it's an inane reason. One of the examples given was waiting in line for a copier: "May I cut in front of you? I need to make some copies" will get you what you want over half the time. However, this only works if you are reasonable. Asking to make 30 copies will be little more effective with politeness than without compared to asking to make 5 copies.
  • There's a story about a World War II British (or American) spy who infiltrated the Nazis by going deep undercover, learning to speak perfect, unaccented German (and claiming not to know English). His fake back story worked, and the Germans were sending him off by plane when one of the officers tested him by calling out "Good luck!" in English - to which he instinctively responded, "Thanks!"
  • During a conference in America, journalists shot footage of Israel and Palestinean Leaders Ehud Barak and Yassir Arafat getting in a politeness brawl about which one of them would let the other go through the door first. While polite, in middle-eastern culture it is the superior person who has his guests enter before him. note  Once they started to give each other slight nudges to the elbow and pats on the shoulder, only their friendly smiles cover up that they were apparently just inches from getting into a fistfight.
    • At least one retelling has it that Bill Clinton, being Genre Savvy enough to recognize what was going on, put one hand on each leader's back and shoved them both through the door simultaneously.
  • One of the more notorious FBI scandals in the United States involved COINTELPRO-a covert (and sometimes illegal) program monitoring and disrupting dissident political organizations and their members, notably including Martin Luther King, Jr. The key to the exposure of this group was the publishing of a body of documents stolen on March 8, 1971 from an FBI office in Media, PA (a Philadelphia suburb). The burglars were never caught, but in 2014, a subset of them willingly came forward to talk about what they'd done...and it seems they were decidedly unconventional in their approach.
    As burglars, they used some unusual techniques, ones Davidon enjoyed recalling years later, such as what some of them did in 1970 at a draft board office in Delaware. During their casing, they had noticed that the interior door that opened to the draft board office was always locked. There was no padlock to replace, as they had done at a draft board raid in Philadelphia a few months earlier, and no one in the group was able to pick the lock. The break-in technique they settled on at that office must be unique in the annals of burglary. Several hours before the burglary was to take place, one of them wrote a note and tacked it to the door they wanted to enter: "Please don't lock this door tonight." Sure enough, when the burglars arrived that night, someone had obediently left the door unlocked. The burglars entered the office with ease, stole the Selective Service records, and left. They were so pleased with themselves that one of them proposed leaving a thank-you note on the door. More cautious minds prevailed. Miss Manners be damned, they did not leave a note.
  • This is also big in corporate espionage. All you need to do is pretend to be the new guy who's lost his key, or stand in front of a key-card door with a stack of seemingly heavy boxes and someone will eventually come and open the door for you. Even with companies getting savvy about this method and training employees against it, it still happens because human niceness wins out.
    • It's especially effective if they pretend to have met the person before. Refusing to let them in would implicitly admit that you don't recognize them, and most people are too worried about giving offense to do that.
  • In general, most people are more willing to do something for you if you ask them to (thereby giving them an option to decline) rather than tell them to do it.
  • One student on Not Always Learning asks the teacher to help them spell a word... in the middle of a spelling test. The teacher was halfway through spelling it for them when she realized.
  • A minor example, but in games with two-sided playing fields like Capture the Flag where being on your opponents field puts you at risk of being 'out', a valid tactic is to just casually stroll across the line, and calmly make your way towards the objective. Your opponents tend to assume that since you're not running with the rest of your team, you have some valid, non-game related reason to be on their side, and will usually let you get a fair way in before they realise somethings wrong. Of course, this only works once or twice before they start catching on, but if you're a fast enough runner to back it up once they notice you the first time...
  • A surprising amount of traffic laws are meant to counter the politeness of most people. In fact traffic laws were created in part because the first traffic jams were created because people would always stop at an intersection and try and let the other person go first. One of the first things they teach you in driving school is that if you have the right of way in a situation, you are expected and should exercise that right.
    • ... with one exception: If you are on a main road in heavy traffic, it's important to let in people from the side roads once you slow to a stop. If the give-way rules were strictly followed, in many places people would have to wait close to an hour before being let onto the main road.


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Musical Chairs

Mr. Cat wins a game of musical chairs by being polite to his opponent.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

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Main / PolitenessJudo

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