Originally Posted by martok2112
Indeed. There is politeness, and then there is political correctness.
Politeness is understanding the sensitivity of the person you are speaking to, but knowing where the boundaries are with your joking, occasionally testing them, and when it's gone far enough, you'll know without any ado.
Political correctness? Well, that can be described several ways.
My way is: Political correctness is the politically correct term for the kissing of *** of people who in no way, shape, or form deserve it. And the last time I checked....nobody deserves it.
Another way, as paraphrased from a quote by a military commander:
It is the mistaken belief that one can indeed pick up a turd from the clean end.
The problem of political correctness is that it is too blunt and direct. Ordinary politeness often works indirectly. Take the example of apologizing, the usual response is something like "no harm done, you have nothing to apologize for". Obviously this isn't literally true, of course there was something to apologize for, but the pretense serves to protect the relationship.
"How are you?" is also such a sincere lie. If you took it literally an appropriate response would be "that's none of your business" but the point is again to insert some form of excess friendliness into it. Even tough everybody knows that it is not a sincere question it does the trick, it works better as a greeting phase than a mere hello.