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I noticed that a fair amount of questions ask for a "polite" solution to a problem. For instance:

A search of is:question polite gives 18 results, almost all of which ask about how to do an action politely; 14 ask specifically. This is over 20% of the questions on the site, and I have yet to see a question ask about how to do something rudely. The trend continues when searching for other words.

Should we assume that most question asking how to do something are looking for a polite answer? Interpersonal skills often require not just doing it something, but doing in civilly and pleasantly - politeness is a part of most human interactions.

Obviously, having a policy that simply makes the word "politely" redundant doesn't save people that much time, but it would be nice in cases where a person does not specify that they're looking for a "nice" or "polite" resolution.

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  • It would seem that the questions so far do seek a "polite" or courteous approach. Are you suggesting that more questions might read, "How do I effectively end a cold call?" or " How do I assertively refuse money . . . ?" – r m Jul 2 '17 at 13:07
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No, saying that solutions must be polite is not good policy. You cannot assume politeness is a prerequisite of every situation. Various levels of confrontation are also interpersonal skills.

In your "refuse money" example, if politeness is something the author requests, they obviously want to resolve the problem with the least interpersonal friction. But if the problem is ongoing or troublesome, assertiveness may be more appropriate. And if the question was how to deal with ongoing sexual harassment (for example), politeness may not be a consideration at all.

You shouldn't just assume what every author wants, or what the end goal is for every interaction. If the level of civility or confrontation is important to the author, they should spell it out in the title or body of the post.

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    Thanks for the answer, Robert. I think I hadn't considered the breadth of questions where politeness would be unimportant or even counterproductive, if it means being less assertive. – HDE 226868 Jul 2 '17 at 21:50
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    @Robert Because almost every question on this site is about how to be politely assertive, it would be better to assume politeness by default and have non-politeness explicitly specified for the few questions where that is what is desired. – curiousdannii Jul 2 '17 at 23:05
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Politeness is an issue on it's own within interpersonal skills.
One example being How do I politely end a cold call I've received?

This is expressly about how to be polite. Not how to handle the situation generally, but how to handle it politely. There's many people happy to handle the situation without being polite, so as Robert Cartaino said in his answer, we cannot assume politeness is a prerequisite of interpersonal skills.

There's many situations where politeness is not an issue, particularly with familiar relationships. Politeness is something that tends to be associated with people we do not know well, whereas kindness is something that we would more so associate with people we are familiar with, as opposed to politeness.

Also politeness is culturally specific. What is considered polite in one culture may be considered rude in another. It is subjective.

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A question that specifies a "polite" solution is useful even if you assume answers on all questions should be polite. Specifying that you want a "polite" solution can be very useful because it suggests you think the "easy" answer is a rude one.

The answer "No, really, it's not rude to just be clear and direct about this" is a useful answer to such a question.

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