Here is a very brief (too brief actually) section on nonverbal politeness (which will appear in the next edition of Interpersonal Messages)--offerred more in the nature of a stimulus for considering the role of nonverbal messages in politeness/impoliteness than in presenting an exhaustive list of dos and don'ts.
Often we think of politeness as a verbal skill, but our gestures and nonverbal cue can also signal polite or impolite behavior.
Maintaining eye contact with the speaker—whether at a meeting, in the hallway, or on an elevator—communicates politeness. It says that you are giving the person the consideration of your full attention. Eye contact that is too focused and too prolonged is likely to be seen as invasive and impolite.
Using certain adaptors in public—for example, combing your hair, picking your teeth, or putting your pinky in your ear—would be considered impolite. And, not surprisingly, the greater the formality of the situation, the greater the perception of impoliteness is likely to be. So, for example, combing your hair while sitting with two or three friends would probably not be considered impolite (or perhaps only mildly so) but in a classroom or at a company meeting, it would be considered inappropriate.
Strong cologne or perfume can often be impolite. While you may enjoy the scent, those around you may find it unpleasant and intrusive. Much like others do not want to hear your cell messages, they probably don’t want to have their sense of smell invaded either.
Touching another person may or may not be considered impolite, depending on the relationship you have with the other person and on the context in which you find yourselves. The best advice to give here is to avoid touching unless it’s part of the culture of the group or organization. The handshake, on the other hand, is not only a permitted form of touching, it is often essential. Some guidelines for the handshake—something we often do mindlessly and, as a result, less effectively than we might, will be presented in a future post.