Saying Please And Thank You: A Basic Courtesy, A Valued Trait

By Mary Lou

The prompting starts when we are very young. It’s passed on from generation to generation. Somewhere along the line, the value can get lost, but it is, nevertheless, a priceless gesture.

Remember the cues from childhood? “How to do you ask?” followed by “What do you say?” Please and thank you are among the first phrases we teach our children. While we delight in hearing young ones call us by name, it is not likely they will grow up forgetting that. But please and thank you—well, that can be a different matter.

At Hospice of the Red River Valley, we consider it a privilege to walk life’s most intimate journey with a family and we place an extremely high value on how that experience goes for them. So much so, that we devote time and resources to customer service training, which goes well above and beyond just saying please and thank you. Our Book of Courtesies outlines standards for interacting with all our customers—vendors, donors, health care partners, and in particular, patients and families. All staff members, no matter their role, are expected to adhere to those standards. In addition, clinical staff receives more training on what we call “the hospice presence.”

While common courtesy may seem obvious, and should be second nature, we all need reminders.

I recently got a parking ticket. (Only the second one in my life!) It was in a pay lot and I had missed the sign and the directions for paying. I earned that ticket. But when I approached the attendant for clarification about the process for my next visit (honest, I wasn’t protesting!), he barely made eye contact, answered abruptly and walked away.

This experience reminds me of research that suggests negative experiences are communicated many more times than positive ones. How different would my experience have been if I had been given a courteous response?

At Hospice, saying please and thank you is more than just courtesy; it’s a simple way to complement our mission of providing dignified end-of-life care.

So as a new year approaches, it seems to me a valuable resolution for all of us could be the simple matter of consistently saying “please” and “thank you.”  Better yet, say, “pretty please with sugar on top.” Personally, I think I will be far more successful at that than some of the standard resolutions.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email or visit