Are “Please” and “Thank You” Necessary

I recently received a note from a site that I follow. About half of what I receive from this site are pitches to sell classes or seminars or books that will assure that I succeed at a specific chosen field of endeavor. I’ll leave that undefined since most of what they send me is positive and interesting.

This is interesting too, but I am not sure about positive. Here is the message:

“I like the South Korean culture because respect is implied. They believe “please” and “thank you” should always be in your heart. It doesn’t need to be said out loud.

“I wish that every bump in the airplane loading line was an unintentional accident and “oops, I’m sorry” was already implied. That the person eating pretzels next to me wouldn’t have to cover her mouth and nearly choke to spit out a thank you when I lean to grab her fallen napkin.

“And that, by merely demonstrating caution with our actions, our sorry’s and excuse-me’s are implied.

“Maybe simply going about our day with a smile on our face and respect in our heart, we could get by with fewer forced politenesses, pardon-me’s, and excuses.

“And, if we pass that idea around, they’ll be expected less, too. Ideally, the airport, loading dock, street traffic, and crowds will legitimately feel happier and better respected, too. By simply saying fewer please’s and thank you’s and implying more, we’d all become happier.

“Are please and thank you necessary if we can all be more respectful in our actions?”

And then the writer asked for my thoughts—with no return email address, so I could not communicate directly. So here are my thoughts….

First, I may be described as a dinosaur—in many respects, including social niceties, but I am not prepared to toss verbal politeness, even if sometimes it seems contrived or artificial.

Second, to “imply” anything is only half of the equation. For the communicated message to be completed, someone must “infer” the intended implication.

I have never been to South Korea, but I have traveled through mainland China. I speak no Chinese, and many merchants did not speak English. There were, however, often clear verbal or visible expressions of “thank you” and “you’re welcome” following a transaction. Perhaps it was only a bobbing-head nod and a smile, but the thought was openly expressed (implied) and understood (inferred) and appreciated.

The fact is, in our society, respect is not always implied, and, therefore, cannot be inferred. I believe respect is important and the absence of respect is characteristic of too many interpersonal interactions. (Note, the absence of respect does not necessarily mean disrespect, but the absence of a clear expression of respect makes it difficult to make a distinction between the two.)

No, I see enough instances of absences of respect on a daily basis, that I appreciate an expression of “please” or “thank you,” even if it is only a polite nicety.

And, in our community people notice. In our shop, someone stopped in to ask directions. Upon getting the needed information, he simply turned and walked out. Others in the shop who overheard the conversation immediately observed, “He didn’t even say thank you.” Clearly respect was not inferred, implied or not.

I appreciate “thank you,” “excuse me,” etc., when appropriate. It is a clear and unmistakable expression recognizing that we share the acknowledged value of treating each other with respect—it is clearly demonstrated with simple, short, polite words. It costs very little, but pays big dividends in good will.

Yes, there are times when it may be overdone. In that airport line, being bumped by someone, the first “excuse me” is enough to express polite respect. Subsequent bumps may be unavoidable and I would not be disappointed with silence.

Additionally, and occasionally, a simple “excuse me” may initiate a very natural human-to-human conversation—an interaction that, if there was more of, there might be less conflict, less lack of respect, and less distrust in the world.

So, “pardon me,” but if I accidentally bump into you in the airport security line, I will say “excuse me.”

I would really like to know what you think?

This entry was posted in The View from Pelham. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Are “Please” and “Thank You” Necessary

  1. Pingback: Renaissance Musings Table of Contents | Renaissance Musings

  2. Ludwig says:

    There are many ways to express yourself that are well understood – and appreciated. A wave of the hand to another driver as a “thank you” for a small courtesy on the road is well received. In many situations a smile, a nod, is all that it takes to show respect and to imply thanks. We should not be stingy with verbal “thank you”s, even when accompanied with a well understood gesture. We can make the world a friendlier place. Thank you for an interesting topic. 🙂

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