For many of us, the phrase, “What’s the magic word” is one that still resonates in our memory bank. For some, it is a phrase that may still haunt you for possibly being used far too often, echoing in your mind. And for many of you raising children, you’re not against using it on a day-to-day basis with your kid(s). But we can all agree on one thing—this phrase has helped us all learn how to say the words “please” and “thank you.”
When you were young and wanting something, whether that be something like a piece of food or a favorite toy, or to be allowed to do something or go somewhere, saying the word “please” was, for many of us, not an option to overlook and forget and if a sincere “thank you” didn’t trail soon behind like a caboose on a train, then there was probably a little frustration and anger on the receiving end. What we all didn’t realize at such a young age is that we were being taught three of the most important words that will forever be used in our everyday vocabulary. These three words not only show appreciation and a form of being polite, but they also resonate who we are as a person.
Saying “please” and “thank you” are more than just recognizing, appreciating and showing gratitude. Yes, saying them puts YOU in a positive light and it is a reflection of your overall character, but it has a much larger impact. It creates positive social bonds with friends, family, and colleagues, along with complete strangers. Let’s think about it for a moment. Let’s say you work in customer service, which many of you reading this do. Someone walks in a says, “Give me that.” So you give it to them and they walk away without saying a single word in return. This can have a series of effects on you. You can either not give a damn, which is okay, but after it happens more routinely, you start feeling abused and experience a decline in your self worth. If it affects you immediately in a negative way, your mood is affected and so are those around you. Insecurities rise, self-image becomes altered and a rise in anger and depression occurs.
To understand the importance of using “please” and “thank you” on a regular basis, maybe taking a step back and understand more about this single word and this little phrase will help shed some light on its significance. Let’s start with the word “please.”
When you look it up in the dictionary (we used Merriam-Webster) it is defined as “to make (someone) happy or satisfied” and “to make a choice about what to do, have, etc.” How so very true. After reading this dual-serving definition a couple times, it makes sense on why it is important to use. It does something for someone else (it makes them feel happy or satisfied) first and foremost. It is making others feel like they are worthy and respected and you validate them. And what it does for YOU is that you are saying to yourself that you have made a decision and you are ready to take that decision to the next step. You are also showing your compassion and that you have the ability to acknowledge others, and most importantly, you understand the importance of respect. Because respect is one of those things that we all believe we need, and deserve, in life. When we don’t feel like people respect us, we can often feel broken and mistreated. It all comes back to that negative domino effect of emotion. Remember this—in order to earn respect you must show it.
And once you’ve received something from someone, follow it up with “thank you.” Want to know why? Because guess what word rhymes with gratitude? No, not longitude (even though yes, longitude does rhyme), it is “attitude.” Saying “thank you” shows appreciation, gratitude and most importantly a person who has a positive attitude who respects others and themselves.
We’ve been talking about how “please” and “thank you” affect others, but would you believe us if we told you that saying “thank you” will actually make YOU a happier person? Believe it. There’s this professor of psychology named Dr. Robert Emmons who wrote a book called, Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. This book shows not only the research and study behind how gratitude does in fact make you a happier person, but it also gives you ways to become a happier and more grateful person. It truly is an important read. When you’re grateful for the things around you, and the people in your life, saying the phrase “thank you” will effortlessly roll off your tongue. And the benefits of doing so are impactful. For instance, and this information was obtained from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, people who regularly practice grateful thinking can increase their “set-point” for happiness by as much as 25 percent. And such increases can be sustained over a period of months, challenging the previously held notion that our “set-point” is frozen at birth.
Two ways Dr. Robert Emmons stated in an interview with Huffington Post on how you can become a more grateful person is by starting a “Gratitude Journal.” This is where you write something you feel grateful for, 4 times a week, for as little as 3 weeks. This time frame is often enough to create a meaningful difference in one’s level of happiness. And according to the publisher, keeping a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks can also result in better sleep and more energy.
And another exercise he suggested is writing a “Gratitude Letter” to a person who has made a positive influence on your life (or on someone else’s life) but who has never been properly thanked. And the goal is to meet with that person and read them the letter face to face. It’s an exercise that really makes you dig a little bit, and in return you see just how important it is just to say “thank you” from the very get-go. Saying it in the present can be more impactful, but it doesn’t mean you can’t fix the past and practice it in the future.
“Please” and “thank you” can go pretty far in:
- Personal relationships, because it helps keep them healthy, and let’s face it, prevents an emotional outburst or petty fight from breaking out.
- In the workplace. Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you need to be bossy. Employees need to hear the word “please” and “thank you” in person and in email communication. You’ll be surprised to see how productivity and morale increase when the staff feels appreciated and respected.
- In peer-to-peer interactions. This can be something so small like the guy at the grocery store asking you if you want paper or plastic, as he gets ready to bag your groceries. Instead of barking, “Plastic” and then going back to your texting, look him in the eye and in an appreciating tone say, “Plastic please, and thank you for asking.” It may not make him jump up and down for joy, but he’ll remember it. You’re the person who didn’t make him like he had no value even though he is the one packing your groceries so you can keep texting (and don’t even say under your breath that it is his job or so help me…).
And when you’re using “please” and “thank you,” always remember to…
- Look someone in the eye when you say it.
- Be sincere. If you don’t mean it, then don’t ask someone for something or expect something to be done.
- Once you get in the habit of using them, you won’t have to keep remembering to use them.
By bringing forth this lesson we learned early in life, it’ll do wonders for the people around us now and most importantly, for ourselves. So before you ask someone for something or walk away from a situation where someone has given you something, stop and ask yourself, “What’s the magic word?”