Three magical expressions

It is an open eyesore that Nigeria, as a microcosm of the world, is increasingly becoming Hobbesian where life is now “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, short” for a vast majority of people. Evils that could not be contemplated a few decades ago are being perpetrated with impunity by both deaf leaders and blind followers.

In this mutually assured destruction (MAD) mode the world is on, we are truly obsessed with madness. Thomas Paine wrote the “Age of Reason” in 1794 and 1795. The world has changed. By 1989, Charles Handy wrote his own, countering him that this is “The Age of Unreason”.

The world has turned full circle. The world is flat. You have to be unreasonable! To succeed, you have to be “thinking the unlikely and doing the unreasonable” as Handy counsels us. How chronically unreasonable are our leaders who play deadly politics with our lives to retain or gain power!

However, despite the prevailing madness, we can choose to be sane. This sanity partly lies in three magical expressions that never fail. We can live in peace and harmony and avoid much conflict and confrontation if we seek refuge in the simple expressions. These expressions are 1) “Please”, 2) “I am sorry” and 3) “Thank you”.

“Please” is a marker of politeness and there is need to be polite in dealing with people and phenomena. Being polite in the right measure never hurts anyone. It only makes people to feel good towards one. The politeness principle, according to author Geoffrey Leech in his “Principles of Pragmatics” (1983 p.81) is this: “Minimize (all things being equal) the expression of impolite beliefs, and …Maximize (other things being equal) the expression of polite beliefs.”

To be polite, three things are involved: don’t impose, give options and make your receiver feel good. In other words, when you cultivate the habit of saying “please”, you are likely going to please your interlocutor or addressee.

Then, “I am sorry” is a sign of humility. Anyone that is haughty, naughty and arrogant finds it difficult to say the magical three-letter word statement. At the end of the day, thousands of words are wasted and valuable time is lost to explanations, which largely aim at justifying the unjustifiable. If somebody says you have wronged him or you have wronged someone, the heavens would not fall if you say, “I am sorry”. As a matter of fact, no one is known in history to have choked to death for swallowing their pride!

Even if you are right, it is better to lose arguments and win friends than the other way round. The mercurial poet, T. S. Elliot, tells us in immortal words, “The only wisdom we can hope to acquire/ Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.” Those who are humble are unlikely to stumble. Dear reader, if I have offended you in any way, I am sorry. Life goes on.

Then, there is need to cultivate the habit of saying “thank you” even for things that appear inconsequential. There is no doubt that receiving “thank you” makes an average person feel good. An adage says whoever is thoughtful is always grateful.

When a person does you a favour, thank him as a matter of duty. The mere fact he says “don’t mention it” does not mean you should not mention it. Though it is bad habit to expect appreciation, it is part of good character to express it. Express it.

I agree that this is the Age of Unreason and people have reasons to be unreasonable. But for our own peace, let us take the pains to be reasonable, like Paine. Part of this desideratum includes imbibing the culture of living and being powered by the three magical expressions: “Please”, “I am sorry” and “Thank you”. Thank you.