The History of "Please" and "Thank You"

Application in Communicating with Narcissists

· Main,Narcissists

The Evolution of Politeness: The History of "Please"

The English word "please" is a cornerstone of polite conversation, stemming from the verb "to please," which means to give pleasure or satisfaction. This usage as a polite addition to requests can be traced back to the late 14th century. Historically, phrases like "if it pleases the king" or "if it pleases my lord" were employed to show deference and respect to individuals of higher status or authority. These expressions were markers of humility and recognition of the listener's power, designed to soften the demand or request and make it more palatable.

Over time, such phrases were shortened to simply "please," making their way into everyday language. The transformation from "if it pleases" to "please" allowed for a more streamlined, yet still courteous, way of asking for something. This linguistic evolution highlights the deep-rooted human need for civility and respect in social interactions.

The Evolution of Gratitude: The History of "Thank You"

Similarly, the phrase "thank you" is deeply embedded in the fabric of polite society, functioning as a simple yet powerful expression of gratitude. The origins of "thank you" can be traced back to the Old English word "thanc," which means thought or gratitude. By the 14th century, it evolved into the phrase "I thank you," used to convey personal thanks.

Historically, saying "thank you" served as a social lubricant, fostering positive interactions and reinforcing social bonds. This polite phrase became a fundamental part of social etiquette, helping to acknowledge kindness, assistance, or generosity from others. It reflects an understanding and appreciation of another person's efforts or goodwill.

Communicating with Narcissists: The Grey Rock Method

While politeness and expressions of gratitude are generally virtues, there are specific situations where traditional social niceties like saying "please" and "thank you" may not be appropriate or beneficial. This is particularly true in the context of dealing with narcissists, especially those who are abusive.

Narcissists often thrive on manipulation, control, and eliciting emotional responses from their victims. Engaging with them using typical polite language, such as "please" and "thank you," can reinforce their sense of superiority and entitlement. This is where the Grey Rock Method comes into play.

The Grey Rock Method: A Strategy for Self-Protection

The Grey Rock Method is a communication strategy designed to make interactions with a narcissist as uninteresting and unengaging as possible. By presenting oneself as emotionally unresponsive and indifferent, the method aims to reduce the narcissist's interest in manipulating or controlling the individual. Here are some key aspects of this method:

  1. Minimal Engagement: Keep conversations short and to the point. Avoid sharing personal information or showing emotional reactions.
  2. Neutral Responses: Use neutral language and avoid expressions that convey interest or enthusiasm.
  3. Consistency: Maintain this approach consistently to discourage the narcissist from seeking attention or conflict.

Why We Avoid "Please" and "Thank You"

In the context of the Grey Rock Method, avoiding the words "please" and "thank you" serves a specific purpose. Politeness markers like "please" and expressions of gratitude like "thank you" can be interpreted by a narcissist as signs of subservience or an invitation to engage further. Here’s why avoiding these phrases can be beneficial:

  1. Reduces Perceived Power: Not using "please" diminishes any perceived power imbalance that the narcissist might exploit.
  2. Avoids Validation: Not saying "thank you" prevents giving the narcissist the validation they seek.
  3. Limits Emotional Leverage: It prevents the narcissist from using your politeness as a tool to manipulate or control the interaction.
  4. Neutrality: Maintaining a neutral, business-like tone helps in not providing the narcissist with emotional fuel.

Practical Examples

  • Typical Interaction with "Please": "Can I please have this report by tomorrow?"
  • Grey Rock Interaction: "I need the report by tomorrow."
  • Typical Interaction with "Thank You": "Thank you for your input."
  • Grey Rock Interaction: "Noted."

The history of "please" and "thank you" underscores their roles in fostering respect, civility, and positive social interactions. However, when dealing with narcissists, especially those who have been abusive, traditional politeness can be counterproductive. The Grey Rock Method provides a practical alternative, focusing on emotional self-protection and minimizing the narcissist's ability to manipulate.

By adopting this approach and avoiding "please" and "thank you," you reinforce boundaries and protect your well-being. While respect and gratitude are generally important, they should not come at the cost of your emotional safety and mental health when dealing with a narcissist.