Politeness is generally seen not only as a virtue in our society, but as an asset. An essential part of the persuasion toolkit, it can help us get along well, negotiate to our advantage, and make life a little smoother.
But sometimes too much good manners can also be a hindrance. It can even open us up to other people who take advantage of us.
Again and again we see in the accounts of scam victims that they feel embarrassed when they are on the phone with scammers. Many of us are reluctant to confront someone directly even when we start to be suspicious of them. IMoney columnist Iona Bain described him a few weeks ago as developing a split personality.
Get financial tips and industry news to help you manage your money
Of course, it’s not just the fear of being rude that prompts us to act this way, but the feeling of being bamboozled by the other person, which we – despite apprehensions – assume they are talking about. The creeping realization that something is wrong is often not enough for many of us to cut the conversation.
According to a study published last week by Marcus, the savings brand of Goldman Sachs, a quarter of UK adults believe they are more susceptible to fraud because of their polite and trusting nature. The same proportion would have a hard time hanging up on a cold call without saying anything, thinking it would be too rude.
Our own politeness is only half the equation; I’ve spoken to more than one person targeted by a con artist who said they feel reassured by the consistently polite, often well-spoken business voice on the other end of the phone.
It seems that we are really too gracious for our own good. Yet politeness, instilled in most of us from early childhood, can be a difficult habit change.
So how can we learn how to better avoid scams, while still meeting our ingrained need to be courteous?
Who better to speak to on this subject than Debrett’s, the legendary professional coaching company specializing in etiquette and behavior? At least that’s the approach of Marcus, who has partnered with Debrett for a new guide to help polite columnists fight fraud.
“Scammers intend to trick you into a conversation and often use small chats to put you at ease, which makes it hard to tell if they’re genuine,” says Liz Wyse, etiquette consultant at Debrett’s.
“You have to stop them quickly, and you can do it politely – but you will only do it effectively if you deploy counterintuitive techniques. The guide is created to help train you not to respond to suspected crooks with instinctive kindness and open-mindedness, but to respond politely to questions with closed-ended answers that offer no further progress.
One of the most important tips in Debrett’s guide is to avoid the conversation altogether, so that you can’t tie yourself up thinking of ways to end it. You can also say that you don’t have time to speak at the moment and that you will call them back at the number on the institution’s official website – any sign that they are reluctant for you to do so is a signal to do so. ‘alarm.
One instinct that’s hard to suppress is to turn questions around. If a suspicious caller asks, “How are you? Debrett’s says it’s okay to say you’re okay, but to avoid asking “how are you?” ” in return. What you can do instead is ask other questions. Politely ask for the caller’s full name, number, and who they work for. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, Debrett advises you to start by apologizing and explaining that there are so many con artists, and that you really can’t be too careful.
Questions can also be powerful in deflecting attempts to dig into your personal data. If a caller asks questions such as “are you worried about your retirement?” », Answer« why are you asking me that? “
And, most importantly, have the confidence to hang up the phone. Since many of us feel uncomfortable doing this without saying anything first, Debrett’s gives this as an end of everyday conversation: “I’m so sorry. I have listened to what you have to say, but I do not feel inclined to go further. Thanks for your call. Goodbye. ”Follow this by immediately putting the phone down.
Have you recently come across any scams or found a good way to keep cold calls at bay? Let us know at [email protected]