July 2, 2022

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Polite behavior: A second nature to Iranian people

According to IRAN DAILY, in naming desirable character traits in children, 90 percent of Iranian respondents included “having good manners.”
In social situations, Iranians generally shun behaviors construed as impolite, such as raising one’s voice, arguing, swearing, or not acknowledging an acquaintance’s presence by exchanging warm greetings.
Persian politeness
Persian politeness broadly follows three principles, the application of which gives rise to a wide variety of behaviors. These principles are deference, humility, and cordiality, with the first two often occurring together in practice. According to the deference principle, speakers address a person as superior or better, and in keeping with the humility principle, they present themselves as junior or less favored in terms of accomplishments, abilities, knowledge, or possessions. The cordiality principle requires a speaker to show interest in others’ affairs and concern for their needs and comfort, and to claim common ground with others.
The principles are rooted in qualities and behaviors that are highly commended in Iranian culture: Adab (good manners), which includes respect, especially to seniors, teachers, and one’s superiors; cordial manners; and modesty.

Familiar and polite pronouns
In common with some European languages (e.g., French, German, and Spanish) but not English, Persian has two pronouns of address, tow – a singular familiar – and shoma – a polite plural. The use of the singular familiar pronoun is generally considered impolite, even rude, outside very intimate or familial settings. In addition, intimates or close relatives, who would use the familiar pronoun when alone, will use the plural to each other if people outside the immediate family are present. Because the use of the familiar pronoun is so limited, the plural pronoun is much more widespread than in other languages and functions as the default pronoun.
It is also acceptable to use the familiar singular to address young children and household help, where there is a marked status difference, as well as to address God, who, according to the Holy Qur’an, is more intimate than one’s jugular vein.

Polite behavior: A second nature to Iranian people
Despite modern busy life, the feast of Yalda, which marks the winter solstice, the longest night of the year by one minute, is still held by Iranians with some details

Naming practices and terms of address
In Iran, if you are on first-name terms with someone, there are two options: Use their first name and aqa/khanum (Mr/Lady), or their first name and jaan, which means “soul, life” and therefore “dear as one’s life.” In relationships within the family circle, this is something of a paradox. By definition, family relationships are defined by intimacy or, at least, familiarity.
In professional settings, Iranians use aqa/khanum and the person’s family name. Female colleagues who become friends may address each other by their first names when they are alone, but will use 

Surnames
Surnames are often prefixed with any educational titles, for example, mohandes (engineer) and family name, or doktor (doctor) and family name. The title of doctor is used not only for medical doctors, but for academics too, even outside academia.
On the whole, terms of address are used very often in Persian to convey deference or cordiality, but the use itself of a term, rather than its absence, has the function of establishing common ground and warmth.
Using only someone’s first name, or even aqa/khanum and their first name, is reserved for only when people know each other well or when addressing household help or children. Because the use of a first name in English can convey informality but not necessarily familiarity or intimacy (as among colleagues, between boss and employee, or students and university staff), English language speakers need to be aware that in Iranian society informality is linked to intimacy, and they had best avoid first name usage in public settings.
 

Openings and health inquiries
Conversations typically open with the Islamic greeting salam, and answered by the same phrases. Junior people are expected to “offer a salam” first as a sign of respect to someone senior irrespective of gender but offering a salam first without regard to age or status is greatly commended in Islam as a sign of humility in the face of God. It is important to greet people you are acquainted with one by one, including children, instead of a collective greeting like “Hello, everyone.”
An opening is immediately followed by formulaic health inquiries and responses that do not require factual answers, as in English. These responses may overlap as they are issued simultaneously by both parties, and they encompass members of the immediate family, like spouse and children, even if the speaker has never met them. Formulaic phrases are often used in response.
Health inquiries have another function: That of marking a new stage in the conversation. If conversation stops and one of the partners wants the interaction to continue, that person initiates a new round of health inquiries, which function as a springboard for a new topic of conversation.

The above is a lightly edited version of a chapter of ‘AMONG THE IRANIANS, A Guide to Iran’s Culture and Customs’ written by Sofia A. Koutlaki and published by Intercultural Press.

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Original News : https://en.irna.ir/news/84758276/Polite-behavior-A-second-nature-to-Iranian-people

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