Manners costs nothing

Why don’t people say ‘thank you’ as much as they say ‘sorry’? Is it because they feel more comfortable making excuses or apologising for something rather than being grateful and / or expressing gratitude?

We say ‘sorry’ when we make simple mistakes, or step through a door at the same time as someone else, or if we talk over friends excitedly in conversation. Others use ‘sorry’ more as a habitual conversational tic than the powerful fixer that it is meant to be. Some people say ‘sorry’ so much that I have asked them to replace that word with ‘orange’ or ‘blancmange’ just so that they themselves can flag how deep their addiction to it is. Some of them realise how ridiculous they sound and slowly wean themselves off it, others not. I hear ‘sorry’ a lot and sadly a lot of the time, it’s not for the right reason.

‘Sorry’ seems to have become a lexical comfort blanket, its potency so fuzzy that it appeases even that that needs not be appeased. Many are happy with this. That’s not to say that sorry should lose its rightful place at the top of the apology hierarchy. I am a loyal subject and a firm believer in the power of a sincere and robust ‘sorry’ (make up sex is dynamite after all).  But if we said ‘thank you’ for even half the things we should, as we say ‘sorry’ for half the things that we shouldn’t, the effect could be earth shattering.

Maybe I’m a dinosaur, maybe I’m not, but it bothers me that people say ‘sorry’ more than they say ‘thank you’. But who died and made me Queen? It worries me that I am judging how other people act when I’ll wager I don’t say ‘thank you’ as much as I should. Nobody’s perfect.

I saw the image above on Pharrell’s Instagram / Twitter stream and thought it was a great idea. Yes I should cultivate the habit of being grateful more than I perpetuate the cliché campaign in support of ‘sorry’. I shouldn’t just be insta-grateful for an instagram and then move on. Much like a plant or a tree, I should cultivate gratitude – I should make it grow shoots, leaves, branches and a big, fat trunk. I should elevate this gratitude cultivation into a such a fine counter-cultural art that one day the tree will grow so big that it provides shelter, love and warmth for whole families of horses, cats, dogs, birds, squirrels, rabbits and all those furry sticky icky nano-creatures that nibble away at the leaves. As they take refuge from the ravages of the world outside in its bark and branches, they will say, ‘we are so thankful that someone grew that gratitude tree over there. We are now going to tell our friends so that they can cultivate one too’.

The dictionary definition of the word, grateful, is the act of being ‘warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received’. Amongst so many other things that I refrain from boring you with here, I am deeply appreciative of the message that Pharrell beamed into my brain. It planted the seed of an idea that germinated until I felt strongly enough about it that I didn’t just take it to heart and put it into practise for myself, but I also shared it.  Thank  you Pharrell for making me check myself and want to be a better person. And thank you, you, for reading this.

If you want to read more about cultivating the art of gratitude Huffington Post ran this feature today – 11th of February – 4 Ways to Immediately Feel Better About Your Life  These are helpful pointers and should get you on the way no matter what happens in your day. Let me know if you can think of any more.

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