Better! Results Idea #6: Say Excuse Me, Thank You and Please
My work requires extensive travel. Crowded airports, thousands of very busy people, too much human activity jammed into too little space. The result is a noticeable decline in basic human courtesy. Not just in travel situations – in virtually all business and personal encounters.
Others who can impact our opportunities judge us quickly. They evaluate the way we carry ourselves, the way we present our ideas, even our appearance. I’ve witnessed it hundreds of times in recent years: you prepare, present, and patiently wait for positive feedback that does not happen. Often what was missed was attention to basic courtesy.
It is challenging to objectively witness our own behavior. But pay attention for one full day in your work and personal interactions. Do you have a habit of consistently saying these three expressions of courtesy?
I board my flight early and sit on the aisle. Beside me are two empty seats. Down the aisle comes a man or woman carrying a computer bag and pulling a suitcase. They stop next to me, point and say, “That’s my seat.” This often happens without them even saying a word – just a point of the chin at the vacant seat (as they continue to speak loudly into their cell phone) as if I am to interpret this rude gesture as a command to stand and get out of the way so that they can get to their seat. Twice in the last week, I’ve had someone say nothing at all and literally just begin to climb over me in the small space.
Whatever happened to “Excuse me” as the opening line in this brief human encounter? In business conversations, high-rise elevators, telephone conference calls and a hundred other daily moments, when did the phrase “Excuse me” first become a casualty to getting what we need?
Over and over I see it. A simple courtesy is extended. The holding of a door or elevator. Sliding one’s chair slightly to make room for a newcomer. Remaining silent so that a co-worker may express their idea or opinion. Making room for another driver trying to merge into heavy traffic. Most times a simple thank you word or gesture is offered in return, but not every time.
As personal entitlement continues to trump cooperation in our busy business and personal lives, saying “Thank You” has become an inefficient afterthought. Result: hurt feelings, a discounting of the value of the offending party’s ideas or actions, and a small but growing barricade to progress. Remembering to always say thank you raises your value in the eyes of others. It’s not why we should do it; it’s the extra bonus you get when you do it by habit.
The simple one syllable word “Please” is like the magic grease that slides your ideas and needs forward. “Please” recognizes that you are in need of someone else’s assistance and encourages them to recognize your request and respond positively. “Please” tells someone that you are aware of and appreciate their efforts or moment of attention.
“Please” helps us get what we need. Failing to say it blocks what we need.
Why would we ever want to give another person a reason to discount what we say and who we are? Why should we give them a reason to be closed to our ideas?
Let’s not give anyone a reason to block our progress. Present yourself well in every interaction with every person who crosses your path. Breathe new life into a dying human courtesy. Say excuse me, thank you and please, and do it with a smile. You’ll stand out from the crowd and find supporters every time.
John J. Hall, CPA
John J. Hall, CPA, is an author, speaker and results expert who presents around the world at conventions, corporate meetings and association events. Throughout his 35-year career as a business consultant, corporate executive and professional speaker, John has helped organizations and individuals achieve measurable results. He inspires audience members in corporations, not-for-profit organizations and professional associations to step up, take action and “do what you can.”