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Polite Persistence in Econ Dev

Don't just be polite. Be politely persistent.

Jerry Talor
Jerry Talor
2 min read
Polite Persistence in Econ Dev
Photo by Ricky Kharawala / Unsplash

As teenagers, we accidentally learned all the wrong lessons. Back then, when we tried to contact someone, and they didn't reply, they were just not that into you.

If you kept trying, you were a total loser.  If you stopped, you were "being polite."

But in the real world, it's precisely the opposite. If you don't keep trying, you're the loser!

If someone ignores you, it probably wasn't intentional. Everyone is busy, and whatever is going on in their life probably has absolutely nothing to do with you.

Imagine two different scenarios:

  1. Someone doesn't reply, so you get upset and decide they obviously rejected you. You resent them for life, and think poorly of them forever.
  2. Someone doesn't reply, so you assume they must be swamped. You wait a week, and contact them again. If still no reply, you feel sympathy that they must be really overwhelmed. You wait a week, and try again. If still no response, you try to reach them a different way.

Now, which one was rude, and which one was polite?

If someone doesn't want to hear from you anymore, they'll tell you. *


Polite Persistence

It's not enough to be polite. "Yes sir," and "No mam" will you get you far in life, but polite persistence will take you farther.

What do Michael Jordan, J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Jay-Z, and The Beatles all have in common?   They were politely persistent.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team — a heartbreaking experience for any teenager. Then he became one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game.

J.K. Rowling had her first Harry Potter novel rejected 12 times and was told “not to quit her day job.”

Oprah Winfrey 's on-air career had a rocky start. She was hired as co-anchor of the evening news at Baltimore’s ABC affiliate, a desirable job for a young journalist, but was dropped after just a few months.

Walt Disney was fired as a young man from his newspaper job for a lack of good ideas. Then he started his first animation company in 1921, but that quickly went bankrupt.

Henry Ford left his long-term, comfortable job in 1889 to establish the Detroit Automobile Company with $150,000 of investor money. A little over a year later it went bankrupt.

Jay-Z was turned down as a rapper in the early 1990s by every record label in the business, with some stating he was too old, and concern that he wasn’t “hard” enough.

The Beatles were turned down by almost every record label despite some local success playing cover songs in UK bars and clubs. In one infamous rejection, an executive at Decca Records declined to sign them because "guitar groups are on the way out".

After years of polite persistence, Michael Jordan, J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Jay-Z, and The Beatles all found success.  What would have happened had they just been polite?

Don't just be polite.  Be politely persistent.


Be polite to salespeople.  

On the flip side, be kind to those who keep calling.  If you're not interested, just say "no thanks."  They don't want to keep calling and bugging you, but until you clearly tell them no, they have to.

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Jerry Talor

Jerry is a staff writer for the Econ Dev Show.