The Importance of Politeness

In my quiet time, I worry about odd things, and one of those is that the English language may lose three important words due to lack of use. Unfortunately, these are words that we all know, and could, and should, use them every day; but somehow we’ve stopped. Those words? “Please” and “you’re welcome.” (Okay – one of those words is really two words, but give me some literary license, please.

Let’s take these on one at a time. I’ll bet that when you were a toddler, your parents told you multiple times every day to say please and thank you. Somewhere around the teenage years you probably started dropping the please – and maybe the thank you. As I interact with business professionals all day, many of them make requests of me. They ask for information, for assistance, to be hired for a job, etc. I could probably count on one hand the number of times someone included “please” in that request so far this month. While please may still be common for toddlers, it seems to be slipping from the business vernacular.

As a side-note, “thank you” is not endangered – at least not from usage. I hear “thank you” and “thanks” all day long. Granted, some of them are perfunctory or insincere, but the word lives on. I am concerned that all too often its use is insincere. What bothers me most is when someone writes or types “Thx.” Really? You want to show your appreciation, but you don’t have enough time to use three more letters? And how about saying the full “thank you” once in a while? Wouldn’t that be nice to hear?

The first word/phrase I think we might lose is “you’re welcome.” I rarely hear this anymore. Instead I hear no problem, okay, no biggie, any time, and other phrases that suggest that whatever I did for you was insignificant and not worthy of being thanked. In my mind that is plain rude. If someone is going to tell you they appreciate what you’ve done for them – presuming that appreciation is sincere – then the least you can do is acknowledge the receipt of that appreciation by saying “you’re welcome.”

So, the purpose of this manners rant? I wrote a post a while back about the importance of making a good first impression. You can enhance and sustain that impression by being polite. When you ask for an interview, say please. When you get that interview, say thank you. When the interviewer says, “Thanks for coming in today,” say, “You’re welcome, and thank you for the opportunity.”

Incorporating all three words/phrases into your everyday conversations will not only improve the quality of your relationships, you’ll also be saving these words from extinction. Thank you.

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