Have you ever wondered how a simple request for a salt shaker could reveal so much about our relationships and social interactions? The way we phrase our requests can hold a world of meaning, and each choice of words carries its own unique tone. Let’s examine a few options:
- “give me the salt, please.”
- “Can you Give me the salt?”
- “Could you Givee me the salt, please?”
- “Could you kindly Give me the salt?”
Though the meanings of these sentences are similar, their subtle nuances create distinct implications. For many, option 2 seems to indicate a reasonably warm relationship between two individuals, making it straightforward and acceptable due to the addition of “please” at the end. Option 1, however, might make some people wince if the bond between the two is not as close, yet it may not be an issue if they share a close connection.
Options 3 and 4, at least from my perspective as a Vietnamese person, may feel somewhat awkward or forced. They seem to be excessively polite, especially when making a simple request like asking for a salt shaker.
In my experience, using the “can you” construction without “please” in English, for instance, with a native speaker of English, such as saying “Can you pass me the salt?” to someone from China, might not be considered rude. However, in some English-speaking societies, omitting “please” could be perceived as impolite, as it implies giving an order rather than making a request. This is where the subtleties of language come into play. It’s not always about knowing that “please” is a polite word; it’s about turning it into a reflex, a habit. I recall my early days in the UK when I’d sometimes notice the shopkeepers not appearing friendly. In retrospect, maybe it was because I forgot to say “please.” I cannot verify this, as there were times when I didn’t even realize what I had said. To clarify, at that time, I simply did not know, as I had lived a secluded life, with limited social interaction and minimal exposure to social conventions for 18 years. I was unfamiliar with the subtleties of social rules. However, as I ventured into the working world, I soon learned that using the right phrasing could lead to miraculous outcomes. For example, instead of saying:
“Could you send me the report by 4 pm?”
You could say:
“Could you PLEASE send me the report by 4 pm?”
Or if it’s urgent:
“Would you PLEASE help me send the report by 4 pm? My boss is rushing me. Your help would mean a lot.”
This level of politeness can be crucial, even for tasks within someone’s responsibilities, as it serves as a gentle reminder of completing a task on time. In this context, the person reminding is also important. Being a younger colleague might make the politeness even more significant.
I used to think that the act of asking someone politely for something was unnecessary. However, I’ve come to appreciate how it can positively impact our interactions with others. Politeness is a powerful tool in maintaining good relationships and conveying respect. It fosters understanding and appreciation, and it can make a significant difference in how our requests are received.
As I read a post about someone expressing frustration over the lack of formality in the way they were addressed, I thought that perhaps the person was being too demanding. But then again, maybe the other person was simply not familiar with proper social conventions. I recalled moments in my life when I wasn’t comfortable with the conventions, but I genuinely didn’t know any better. I have never been one to demand excessive politeness from others. (Continued…)