Please And Thank You – Ancient History?

You know, I really thought I’d be getting better at having a more regular blogging schedule. But let me reassure you with this thought: If I had blogged over the last week or so, it probably would have sounded a bit more like a rant than something that could actually help you. So in the interest of being helpful, I decided to slow down a bit, get my bearings and come out swinging with something actually decent.

Which brings me to the topic at hand: Please and Thank You. I’ve been thinking a lot about this, mostly because I’ve got a child on the way,and if you’ve been in my shoes, you know exactly what I’m thinking. No, not when is my wife going to go back to normal, I mean the other thing – what am I going to teach this child with what I say and do?

Then I thought about manners. If you’ve ever been taught manners (I was, but I might be a dying breed), then you were taught to say please when you asked for something, and thank you when you recieved it. And if you were taught those things, you remember how annoying it was to have your mother or father constantly reminding you to say these things over and over again. Because when you’re a kid, you figure, “Hey, I got what I wanted. I really don’t need to do anything else.”

Then I thought about how often I really use Please and Thank You.

Do I say Please to everyone? No, because I guess I don’t have to. What about Thank You? Its a bit more common, but not really expected in our culture.


Somewhere along the lines, Please and Thank You became arbitrary statements made to save face. They became a means to an end, and done only for the purpose of getting what you wanted so your mum would leave you alone. Its like going to a restuarant and knowing that you have to leave a tip, but not really wanting to because you feel like its an arbitrary fee rather than a guarantee of good service from the waitstaff.

Then I thought to myself, “Why bother teaching him Please and Thank You, he’s only going to forget about it and not use it in the long run.” I seriously wonder how many adults were taught these considerations, and how long did it take for us to lose our courtesy?

Then it hit me. The reason why you teach him that stuff is the hope that he will take to it and he will use it later on. Back to the waitstaff example, I do my best to say Please when ordering food. Its just a nice thing to do, and it seems to affect service in a positive way. I try to say Thank You to my clients when they give me a copay or say something kind about the work I do with them.

So what’s my point? My point is that sometimes courtesy is a lost art. It is something that we’re taught early on, but somehow gets lost in the programming. But how did it get lost? My guess is that the behavior was not reinforced properly. Think about it. When you were a child, people “made you” say Please and Thank You. There wasn’t any incentive for doing so, or punishment for not doing so. Now granted, you have to pick your battles, but rewards and punishments don’t have to be severe. In fact, just a compliment to the child on how well s/he did when saying Please and Thank You might be all s/he needs.

And bear in mind too, that this most recent generation of teenagers seem to feel very entitled. If you’re saying Please and Thank You, how can you feel entitled? See what I mean? You get either one or the other.

So what if we decided to be a lot more polite to each other? What if we tried to take some of that social conditioning and use it for a change? There were reasons why someone tried to teach us these ideals, and maybe if we look hard enough, we can find the values behind them. Maybe then we can treat each other better, and I can only assume that everyone wants that right?

What do you think? Do you still say Please and Thank You? Or is it something that fades away?