Most of us are taught “friendly phrases” at a young age. Asking for ice cream needs a “please.” Getting it requires a “thank you.” But, you can bet five year old David doesn’t mean it. He’s just following the rules to get what he wants.
Growing up we had to ask permission to leave the dinner table. It was a form of respect, acknowledging that dinnertime was family time. And, for the briefest of moments my siblings and I found a work around. However, “MayIpleasebeexcusedyesImaythankyou,” didn’t cut it. You needed to show respect…with respect.
Saying “please” even if you just really want the ice cream still demonstrates gratitude. Everyone wants to be made to feel good! The sentiment may not be authentic, but the joy of receiving praise is, and creates a sense of simple decency.
“Hey mom, may I please be excused?”
“Yes, you may.”
Married couples sometimes fall into the trap of allowing familiarity to erode common niceties. She knows I care, what’s the diff? But, a 2015 Georgia University studyfound “spousal expression of gratitude was the most consistent predictor of marital quality.” They discovered “when couples are engaged in negative conflict pattern[s]…expressions of gratitude and appreciation can counteract” the adverse effects of that...behavior."
Common courtesies even in the midst of social breakdown help to maintain assurance and comfort.
In “The Shawshank Redemption,” one of the most gratifying prison break movies of all time, Andy Dufrane finds a spark during during the darkest moment of his life. Against the warden’s wishes he amplifies soaring Italian opera into the courtyard, and as Morgan Freeman proclaimed, “for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.”
Civility in the face of adversity is a powerful tool. It lends affability to customer service. It helps law enforcement deescalate volatile situations.
Friendly phrases aren’t a protest march. They aren’t a petition. They won’t stabilize a fractured society. But they are a simple and elegant reminder of a positive influence we can wield.
Thank you for reading.