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The Lost Art of Saying "Please" and "Thank You"

Updated on September 10, 2014

In my own experience, the three most important words in the English language are "thank you" and "please." Ironically, these three words are used less and less, and as generations go by they may just disappear altogether. My question is "Why?" Why are these iconic, easily said and even more easily remembered words becoming archaic in our vocabularies? Why are manners becoming a lost art? And even more importantly, why are so many people lax in encouraging or modeling even the simplest forms of respect, consideration and appreciation to our young people?

First impressions are an integrally important factor in the way others perceive us. In fact, a study conducted by Sunnafrank and Artemio Ramirez Jr, at the Ohio State University concludes that character is often assessed within the first three minutes of meeting, and thus, has a huge impact on future relationships. Conducting ourselves in a proper manner not only conveys respect for others but is a demonstration of self-respect as well. Our society has become all about boosting self-esteem and self-confidence but completely lacks in respect. Fortunately, courtesy is catchy. Treat someone with courtesy, and it is almost certain they will treat you in like manner.

Most young children are taught the "magic word" in their early interactions with adults. I confirmed this by visiting all four of our kindergarten classrooms, in which 96 % of the 114 children present instantly responded "PLEASE!"

The etymology of the word 'please' dates back to the early 14th Century. As a verb, it is a shortened form of "may it please you to....." [1] By using the word 'please,' one can instantly turn a command into a wish, a demand into a social obligation, but people need to understand that there is an option to compliance. We do not always get what we wish for, but when we do....... it is appropriate to say "thank you."

Thanks, a noun, is derived from Old English and initially meant "favorable thought' or an expression of "gratitude." It wasn't until 1703, we find a record of anyone thanking someone for nothing. Obviously, this began a sarcasm we regularly hear today. Note, using either word, please or thank you sarcastically sends a negative, confusing message. Courteous language and behavior should always come from genuine feeling.

Many people blame the lack of manners and absence of proper communication on feelings of entitlement. I disagree with that summation to a certain degree but not wholly. Manners, courtesy, consideration, empathy, compassion and a host of other virtues are learned at home first. They are to be modeled, reinforced, and modeled again. A foundation is constructed, upon which, the host of people most influential in a child's life will continue to instruct and guide him/her.

Barney sings about "Please and Thank You;" Elmo and Ernie grace the cover of "Please and Thank You- A Book About Manners;" and Character Education is a part of the curriculum in many schools. We are surrounded by information...... what we need to do is refresh what we already know, and then set an example for the young people around us.



Barney sings about "Please and Thank You;" Elmo and Ernie grace the cover of "Please and Thank You- A Book About Manners;" and Character Education is a part of the curriculum in many schools. We are surrounded by information...... what we need to do is refresh what we already know, and then set an example for the young people around us.

© 2014 Awdur

Source

Sunnafrank, M. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships , vol 21(3): pp 361-379.[1] N.p., n.d. Web.

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    • awdur profile imageAUTHOR

      awdur 

      2 years ago from Chicago

      Missy- I totally understand..... sometimes children pick-up on our lessons, and other times they don't. Sometimes they even surprise us at the least expected moments! I think your son will surprise you..... he's listening!

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 

      2 years ago from Florida

      As a single parent of two, I have tried to instill these two words into their psyche when addressing others. I have to admit though, my daughter has taken to these words better than my son, and it's not for lack of teaching one those words more than the other. Actually, I just can't explain it. So, I'm saying, even though some parents do teach their children these respectable terms, it is up to the individual if they do as told. It can be a continuance of trying until one day, hopefully, it sinks in. I have faith!

      Nice article! :)

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      awdur,

      Hey, you are entirely welcome. I meant every word. Keep up the fine work and if you like, I invite you to follow me. I would love that.

      Kenneth

    • awdur profile imageAUTHOR

      awdur 

      3 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you Kenneth! Your comment is much appreciated!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      awdur,

      Great piece. Voted up and all across. Masterfully explained. Keep up this fine work.

    • awdur profile imageAUTHOR

      awdur 

      3 years ago from Chicago

      breakfastpop- Thank for reading and commenting..... it's nice to know I'm not alone! A

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      3 years ago

      I agree good manners seem to be going the way of the handwritten letter. Your hub should be required reading.

    • awdur profile imageAUTHOR

      awdur 

      3 years ago from Chicago

      Sallie- Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I still send thank you notes all the time, and my mother...... now eighty-five, always notes when someone fails to do so. Your comment about "door holding" was right on..... and the fact that people are often surprised at such a simple act speaks to the fact that even the simple things are being forgotten. Thank again! A

    • sallieannluvslife profile image

      sallieannluvslife 

      3 years ago from Eastern Shore

      My parents raised us to say "please" and "thank you" and to write thank you notes pretty much any time someone gave us something. Later in life, my mother-in-law told an Aunt, who I had sent a thank you note to, "She writes thank you notes for everything" in a derogatory way, as if sending thank you notes was passe' and old fashioned, so I guess some people see manners as "relative"...I still send thank you's...old habits die hard!!! I raised my boys to say please and be thankful and to hold doors for people, etc. and it is funny that some people who you hold the door for are surprised and thankful for that little gesture of respect and then others will just walk through the door as if it is expected....so....I guess it is all how you have been raised....Interesting hub....Voted up!

    • awdur profile imageAUTHOR

      awdur 

      3 years ago from Chicago

      Old Poolman- My childhood was similar...... saying please and thank you wasn't an option or afterthought, it was an expectation. Thank you so much for your comments...... they're right on the mark! A

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 

      3 years ago

      I have to think that at some point parents just quit teaching Please and Thank You. That is where almost all older adults alive today learned this courtesy. As a child if I forgot to say Please I may not get what I was asking for. Failure to thank someone was followed by an instant reminder from my mother that I had forgotten something.

      Darned good question as to why this stopped. Perhaps younger parents expected their children to learn this from their school teachers or from TV.

    • awdur profile imageAUTHOR

      awdur 

      3 years ago from Chicago

      Karen- Thank you for stopping and reading my Hub. Manners are so important..... and they need not only to be taught but to be shown! A

    • Karen Ray profile image

      Karen Ray 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Good reminder for folks to teach their kids manners. People are so much more receptive to those who exhibit politeness and manners. I agree that it isn't just entitlement with the young today - it's probably more that they simply haven't been taught any different. Good hub.

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