The Essence of Please
As a logical follow up to last week's column, here are some thoughts surrounding the important act of saying please. This piece of jargon is often spoken as a knee jerk reaction during a brief conversation, often with little or no real thought or feeling behind it, as is the case when phrases become habit such as the dreaded "How are you?" Do you really want to know most of the time?! Unfortunately, Please is less often heard in our daily interactions.
However as a reader explains below, this word has a lot of power and its delivery is as important as its reception.
"Please! It means everything if you are trying to start a polite and
sincere interchange. Please is a magic word as we adults are want to say
to a small child and in this day and age it is what we too want to
hear from another human being. Please is a single wave of a good wand that
creates the kindest, gentlest and most pleasant of atmospheres. Please
simplifies relationships and makes everything nice.
"Abruptly entering any retail shop or business establishment and demanding
service or an item without the introductory Please is a rude and ugly way to
behave. It's one syllable, six letters and rolls easily off the tongue. It's effortless
and yet is gone completely out of fashion. A certain sense of entitlement has
crept into our attitudes and relationships that has put Please on hold, shelved it
or sent it with the click of the delete button into cyber space. And yet without Please
we seem callous, ill bred and selfish. Please begins at home. A child asks his mother
for a cookie, but the preface for this request must be Please as in please may I have a
cookie. Nothing extraordinary in the request and surely to be filled rapidly with the
addition of the word Please.
"Please is a reflection of how we perceive ourselves and others. If you are staring
straight down your nose at the person behind the counter and refuse to indulge in a
bit of gracious behavior by using the word Please, perhaps you'd better rethink your
place in the world. Truly good manners begin with Please. Not a difficult effort and
one that will open doors, windows, hearts, and minds to you. You will ingratiate
yourself to everyone you encounter and perhaps be surprised to discover how much
friendlier people are once you regularly use Please as part of your conversation.
Please instantly displays respect for the person whom you are addressing as well as
for yourself. Because you are willing and more than able to use Please in a sentence you
will be amazed and amaze those around you with the results of using this singularly
Saying 'please' need not be reserved for clerks and mothers with cookies. People in your office with whom we've become familiar, family members and even our significant others deserve the same degree of consideration. Those folks closest to us are often the first ones we take for granted and unintentionally remove from the 'please' list. We certainly would say please on a first date; why not after 15 years of sharing life together with someone? I amuse myself occasionally when someone close to me asks either benignly or rhetorically for a refill in their glass or a utensil just out of reach in the kitchen without saying please. I say, "Is that the same as may I have another glass, please? We both have a laugh and recognize how meaningful such a short word can be.
I am reminded of a rule my mother had when we were growing up and which has stuck with me. When I want to speak with someone who is in another room or out of eyesight, simply speaking loudly to them to communicate a thought, to ask a favor, or to give direction is not okay. I try to remember to go within clear view of the other person. Who knows, he or she may be busy doing something which requires their full attention and your request is then rude and intrusive? I hear partners do this all the time, and it becomes especially annoying when old age and its accompanying deafness creep in.
Say please whenever you are asking someone for anything, be it their time, their opinion, or any other anything else. This seemingly small gesture speaks volumes about the respect you have for other people and ultimately the respect you have for yourself.