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Taarof or Tarof (Persian: تعارف, Persian pronunciation: [tæʔɒːɾof] (listen)) is a Persian word which refers to an Iranian form of civility or art of etiquette that emphasizes both deference and social rank.
Taarof is a ritual politeness that levels the playing field and promotes equality in a hierarchical culture. Taarof between friends, or a host and guest, emphasizes the value of friendship as a priority to everything else in the world. Another understanding is that taarof is a way of managing social relations with decorous manners. It could be used as a basis for mutual goodwill (positively) or as "a social or political weapon that confuses the recipient and puts him at a disadvantage" (negatively). Those who are intimately familiar with Iranian culture seem to agree that taarof is one of the most fundamental things to understand about Iranian culture.
According to Middle East scholar William O. Beeman, "Taarof is an extraordinarily difficult concept encompassing a broad complex of behaviors which mark and underscore differences in social status." For example, in Iranian culture, whoever walks through a doorway first gets a form of status, but the person who makes the other go through the door first also gains status by having made the other person do it through their show of grace and deference. When it comes to matters of rank, "one defers to superiors (tribute), and confers on inferiors (favor), presses honor on equals (neither tribute nor favor) or accepts the honor from a proper source, and thereby "wins". Status is relative for individuals in different interactions, according to Beeman, and rights and obligations shift constantly with changes in social environments.