I travel a lot and because of this, I am often in public places, by necessity. Everywhere that is connected with being away from home: airplanes, airports, restaurants and hotel lobbies.
On each trip, I am surrounded by hundreds of people I don’t know and the point we have in common is that we are both in the same place at the same time. We may have other points in common, but who’s to say? These are fleeting encounters and, like most people, I don’t need to personally meet everyone I come into contact with.
But, if I were to speak to these people I share a brief connection with, I would ask this: “When did you stop saying ‘please’ to strangers?” Now, this is not true for each person I encounter. I would estimate about 15 percent of my co-travelers say please and thank you.
I was at an upscale café today and a mother said to a waiter, “Bring two apple juices for my children.” “Please” hung in the air, just yearning to be said. She could have even said, “Would you bring two apple juices for my children?” and at least made it a request. I still think she should have tacked a “please” on to it, but hey, maybe I’m willing to accept even the smallest courtesy in the face of blatant discourtesy.
I think the world would be a happier place if we were better about saying “please” and “thank you.” It’s not just about being polite and remembering the manners our parents drummed into us when we were young; it’s also about recognizing that you are speaking to a person, not some inanimate object like an ATM or luggage belt.
And, of course, “please” and “thank you” are very important in the workplace. Even if it’s a colleague you may not regularly work with, saying these two words is a mark of respect and everyone deserves this. I recently heard a very funny story from my friend, Mary, who told me, “Just yesterday, someone at work thanked me for saying thank you to him.” Wow. I had to smile when she relayed this story, but in fact it’s a little sad. Has saying thank you become such a rare occurrence?
Plus, I am always more motivated to help someone who asks nicely and thanks me afterwards—so, if for no other reason, saying “please” and “thank you” may get you something you want.