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Two important words to remember

By TJ Ray

May I interest you in a puzzle? Actually, it is a sort of experiment. Be careful with it for it may reveal things about you better left unsaid.

Challenge: think about all the education you’ve had, the sermons you’ve listened to, and the television shows you’ve depleted your time allotment.

Now that your mind is clogged with ideas, most of it in words, try to distil the essence, the soul, of all those jillions of words. Sometime back I came across a compilation of words.

The six most important words: I admit I made a mistake. Confessing error is not something we encourage folks to do. It’s not a social faux pas if you do so, but it is a fine way to begin a conversation. Don’t quibble. Don’t waffle or stutter. Don’t change the subject of discourse. Just say outright for the world to know that you know you are capable of error.

The five most important words: You did a good job. Except for coaches and a few teachers, almost none of us spend much time complimenting someone. It’s not that we’re hiding our feelings for them. It’s more that we don’t care enough about them to applaud their effort.

The four most important words: What is your opinion? Now there is a little bomb we normally don’t throw into the conversation. Perhaps that’s because a) we don’t give a flip what someone thinks or b) we are so busy announcing our own opinion that there isn’t room for the other guy to participate. How many conversations take on the nature of a monologue, leaving one or more speakers to do the listening while a big ego shows itself?

The three most important words: If you please.  Ouch!  That one hurts.  In our hurly-burly world we have moved away from many little courtesies most of us were told to follow: if you please, may I, after you, thank you. See how many folks in a store bother to thank the bag boy or the cashier. When is the last time you’ve seen someone stand aside while a stranger enters a building?

The two most important words: Thank you. So simple. So easy to say. So rare it may surprise the person getting thanked.

The one most important word:  we.  Folks like to be considered worthy of inclusion into a matter, whether it’s a yard job at a church or a road-shoulder trash pick-up. The word is an affirmation that you consider someone else to be a partner in your world.

The least important word: I. For many folks the first person singular pronoun is their theme song. With it they set themselves apart from those nearby. They wear their egos on their sleeve.

Here ends the vocabulary lesson. Tune into the times you hear them around you. Think of the person saying them.  Quite possibly you will find that you respect and care.

TJ Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.