I believe that three simple words could change the world. Insignificant apart, these words are powerful when placed together, and I have seen firsthand their potency and ability lift the spirits. All it takes is a simple ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’
Take for instance the time I went to Subway for lunch. The place was fairly busy that day, and there couldn’t have been more than two or three workers in all. One worker in particular was handling pretty much everything. You could tell that she was haggard and tired and pretty much just having a bad day, and the people she was serving were not making it any easier for her.
For the sake of fairness, I must say that the customers in front of me in line were in no way being rude, but they were certainly not being very polite either. Each person was operating with the knowledge that the worker was there to serve them, and therefore treated her in a fitting manner. There was enough civility and respect as befitting casual interaction between strangers, but not nearly enough gratitude to make a person feel that their work is appreciated.
When I got to the front of the line, the worker turned her attention to me with the same dull enthusiasm that met the other customers, as if she expected me to be just like the rest. However, the first thing I did was smile at her, and it was obvious that this took her by surprise. She smiled back at me and seemed to be a little more upbeat as I placed my order, which I did with the same attitude that made me smile in the first place. I ended each part of my order with a ‘please’ and a smile, and when she handed me my sandwich afterwards, I gave her a very sincere ‘thank you.’ She, in turn, gave me a huge grin, and she was noticeably happier as she went to help the next customer. Even better, as I walked out of the store a while later, she caught my eye, gave me another big smile, and wished me a good day, something she had not done for anyone else, which says a lot about the effect being polite can have on people.
I am not suggesting that I am polite all the time, or that this approach is always this effective, but I do believe that giving a simple ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when interacting when others can only make things better. If there is one thing I have learned in my life, it is that people want to feel appreciated, and when this is done, they are better able to appreciate others. A simple ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ makes people feel appreciated and can start a chain reaction that I believe, when started, could change the world for the better.
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