One real-life example occurred in 1982, when an Air Florida flight was preparing to leave Washington, D.C. The plane had a dangerous buildup of ice on the wings, and the first officer damn well knew it. But instead of saying, "Captain, there's a dangerous buildup of ice on the wings," he said, "Look how the ice is just hanging on his, ah, back, back there, see that?" When the captain didn't get what he was hinting at, he tried again. "See all those icicles on the back there and everything?" Still no dice. "Boy, this is a, this is a losing battle here on trying to de-ice those things. It [gives] you a false feeling of security, that's all that does."
After one last failed attempt at politely telling his superior that the plane was unsafe to fly, they took off. Minutes later, he finally made a direct, impossible-to-misconstrue statement. It was also his last: "Larry, we're going down, Larry."
At least 78 people wished that co-pilot had been a bit more of a dick.
Good Conversational Manners Hinder Female Viewpoints
Plush Studios/Blend Images/Getty Images
Politeness and etiquette can basically be boiled down to knowing your place and acting accordingly. For instance, if you're a student, it's polite to address your teacher formally. If you're at a royal banquet, you're expected to fill your soup spoon only two-thirds. And if you're a woman, it's considered rude if you speak, have opinions, or don't do as you're told.
But hey, enjoy that soup.
All right, maybe that last one isn't explicitly stated in any modern etiquette guides, but on some subconscious level, we still expect interaction between the sexes to function like that, as evidenced by differences in how men and women converse. Women generally use conversational styles that emphasize involvement, inclusiveness, intimacy, and group harmony. Men, on the other hand, tend to handle group conversations like a verbal pissing match, using interruptions, delayed responses, and disobeying turn-taking roles (not shutting up, in other words) to control the interaction. That's usually fine when it's men speaking with other men -- everybody's basically using the same tactics. But in group conversations with both men and women, female styles tend to suppress their own needs by deferring to men in order to maintain group harmony, thereby effectively positioning themselves on a lower rung of the social ladder. This happens even when the woman is of a higher social status than the man, such as when a male patient speaks to a female doctor.
Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"I'm afraid it's-"
"Fit as horse? Great news! Just get me some Vicodin and Viagra, and I'll be on my way."
"... uh, yes sir. Right away."