Mind Your Please and Thank You’s!

Yes, it is still important to mind your manners and say please and thank you, even in the workplace.

Etiquette and manners seem to fly out the door with common courtesy in dealing with managers and peers. Our language has become short and cryptic with the increased usage of messaging with smartphones.

Yet, January is National Thank You Month, so it seems even more relevant to address this often-overlooked subject. 

If You Please 

Using the word “please” is a polite addition to any request made of someone. It comes from the Latin word placer, which is the verb to please. When you ask someone to do something for you, you are essentially asking them to do a task if it pleases them.

The challenge I see with saying please and thank you, is the prevalence in using text-based communications, such as emails, Short Message Service texting, and other online messaging services. 

Text-based communication pushes shorter phrases, and abbreviations in making requests of people. In doing so, we end up with blunt and pointed requests that omit saying “please”.

In the spoken language, researchers, M. Lynne Murphy and Rachele De Felice, in the Journal of Politeness Research (yes, there is such a scientific journal!), found British speakers of English use the word please as a marker of conventional politeness about twice as much as American speakers. And American English speakers perceive their please-less requests as conveying greater urgency or annoyance. 

However, further linguistic analysis of British and American usage of the word please used in email requests shows British users of please is much more routine than Americans, and where there is a lower perceived imposition in the requests.

So, there is a lot more to learn about using the word please than just saying it is the polite thing to do. 

Thank You Very Much 

The words thank you are simply an expression of gratitude or thanks to people for some deed performed on another’s behalf.

The word thanks is plural of Middle English thank, originating from the Old English thanc, which means thought or to think. They also align it with the Old High German dank meaning gratitude, which has evolved to the present-day German danke. In English, “thank you” originally meant, “I will remember what you did for me.”  

Send a handwritten thank you note, or email, which is generally accepted these days, for various reasons, such as,

  • Thank you to a person for attending an event.
  • Thank a host for being invited to an event and their hospitality.
  • Thank you note for gifts you received from a person.
  • Thanking someone for their generosity.
  • Thank a person for their timely help and kindness. 

Like spoken recognition, writing a thank-you card should work around basic expressions that include: 

1.    Being specific about what you are thanking a person for. Express your gratitude to the person and specifically thank them of the gift or action the other person gave or did for them. 

2.    Be specific about how what they did made an impact or benefited you. Tell the giver how their gift will help you or be used in a certain way. Share how their gesture of kindness moved you and made a difference in whatever way.

3.    Be specific with a statement of connection to foster the relationship. Express gratitude and how much you look forward to seeing, speaking with, or connecting with them again soon.

Positively Grateful

Thanks to the study of positive psychology, we hear much about the need for gratitude and developing a grateful mindset. 

However, historical analysis shows that reliance on gratitude was more extensive in the nineteenth century in North America. Research reveals that gratitude took a measurable decline in the early twentieth century until the recent resurgence. 

Whether it is child rearing suggestions, email or spoken etiquette, or ways to ease stress at home or at work, gratitude has now taken center stage.

Research conducted by Adam Grant and Francesca Gino looked at the benefits of expressing gratitude when making requests, and how it led to more positive, pro-social behaviors. They had participants reviewing a cover letter as the initial request from an unknown person. Then the participants received a second request by email from the same requester to review one more cover letter. 

In the control method, they emailed the participants acknowledging receipt of the reviewed cover letter. They stated no words of thanks or appreciation. Then they asked for the participants to review another cover letter.  

The second group, called the gratitude condition, received the same content with just one addition. They included these words, “Thank you so much! I am really grateful.” 

The outcome was that in the control group, only 32 percent of the participants agreed to review a second cover letter. Compare this with twice as many participants in the gratitude condition, 66 percent, agreeing to review a second cover letter.

Words of gratitude and appreciation doubled the level of pro-social behavior. 

You don’t have to say please and thank you, or express gratitude, because of formal politeness. These pleasantries add warmth and show care and concern for people. They are positive expressions that strengthen the relationships between one another.

Wherever you are in the world, please mind your please and thank you’s.

Thanks so much for reading 🙂

Recognition Reflection: Do you express your gratitude for other people’s willingness to help when you make requests of them?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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