On saying "please"


Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash
10 July 2018

Previously, I’ve introduced Nonviolent Communication and one of my favourite observations from its founder, Marshall Rosenberg: that “people are only ever saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’”.

When we use the word “please” to make a request, in almost any language, what we’re really saying is “if it pleases you”. We’re expressing consideration for another’s needs and asking them to only do what we’ve asked if it also helps meet their own needs.

Marshall talked a lot about what he called “natural giving”: the giving that springs naturally from our basic human need to contribute to the wellbeing of others. We all want to deepen our relationships to others and to have a positive impact on the world around us. According to Marshall, we are most “alive” in this state of pleasurable, natural, giving and receiving.

Saying “please” brings us into contact with this state. It invites others to connect with their own needs to understand how helping us to meet our needs might serve them in the process. My teacher, the wonderful Greg McBride, suggested framing every request with the phrase “If it would serve you…”.

By doing this, we make the “giver” a co-creator in a better life for everyone rather than a competitor in a zero-sum game. Practice thinking of the other person’s needs before you make a request and observe what happens:

  • Does your language change? Or your voice?
  • What about your breathing, gestures, and posture?
  • How does it feel?
  • Are your requests less likely to be heard as demands?
  • Is it easier to understand and work with a “no”?
  • Are you more likely to have your needs met?

When done with compassion and sincerity, “please” puts both the giver and receiver into the natural flow of life and everybody wins. Simply keeping this in mind when you make a request can have a profound effect on how you relate to others.

So… will you try it, please? 😉

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