Please, Sorry, Thanks: The Three Words That Change Everything

Written by Mark Batterson, New York Times Best-Selling Author, Lead Pastor of National Community Church, and Blue Trust Client

At the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, 22-year-old long jumper Bob Beamon won a gold medal and set a new world record by jumping 29 feet, 2-½-inches. In the prior 100 years, the world record had been broken 13 times by an average of 2-½-inches. Bob Beamon destroyed the record by nearly two feet!

That jump was so unbelievable and so improbable, it became known as The Jump. But like many great stories, there is an even better backstory. Bob Beamon fouled on his first two attempts, nearly missing the finals. Before his third and final attempt, his teammate, Ralph Boston, pulled him aside and whispered in his ear:

“Take off early! You have room to spare. Give ‘em two inches on the front. You’ll take two feet when you land. Your legs have never been as strong as they are now. At this moment, your body weighs nothing. Your mind has wings. Use them. Fly up. Fly out.”

Ralph Boston’s words were Bob Beamon’s wings!

Three thousand years ago, King Solomon said, “The power of life and death is in the tongue.” Simply put, words create worlds. And that includes world records! For better or for worse, words can function as self-fulfilling prophecies.

If you want to change your world, you have to change your words.

Our words don’t represent the world objectively. Our words create the world subjectively. Linguists call it the Constructive Conception of Language. And no three words are more powerful than please, sorry, and thanks! If you’re good at those three words, you’re good to go!

Nothing opens doors like ‘please.’

Nothing mends fences like ‘sorry.’

Nothing builds bridges like ‘thanks.’

The greatest predictor of success in life and in love is our proficiency at saying please, sorry, and thanks. That’s how you shift the atmosphere at home. That’s how you change the culture at work. That’s how you win friends and influence people. Of course, they can’t just be words we parrot. They have to become a way of life, and there is an art and science to each of them. You have to personalize your please, signature your sorry, and thumbprint your thanks.

The Psychology of Please

Please is a powerful word because it relinquishes power. It levels the playing field by putting the ball in someone else’s court. Instead of operating out of entitlement, please empowers others. And it’s far more effective than title, rank, or resume.

In his book Giftology, John Ruhlin tells a story about trying to get an interview with a Target executive. For 18 months, every attempt failed. Then, Ruhlin did a little research and tried a different angle. After learning that the executive graduated from the University of Minnesota, Ruhlin hired a custom furniture company to carve the Golden Gopher logo and fight song into a 60-pound piece of cherry wood. Within 24 hours, the executive’s assistant called and set up a meeting!

Buyer beware: motives make all the difference in the world. Any attempt to manipulate will eventually backfire! That said, nothing says please like a thoughtful gift. “Giving a gift can open doors,” said King Solomon. “It gives access to important people!” The most effective way of asking is actually giving.

The Science of Sorry

If you’re married, you might as well get good at saying sorry! Why? You’ll be doing it a lot. The same is true for employers and employees, coaches and players, and parents and children. We all make mistakes, but there are right ways and wrong ways to handle them. If we don’t own our mistakes, they will own us.

When our kids were young, we had a saying: ‘fess up when you mess up. That little maxim holds true for all people, for all time!  I live in the nation’s capital, and if we’re being honest, every news cycle feels like a spin cycle. In my experience, people see through the smoke screen of fake news and empty apologies. They respect leaders who mean what they say and say what they mean. More than ever, words matter, and sorry is right at the top of the list.

The Theology of Thanks

“There are only two ways to live your life,” said Albert Einstein. “One is as if nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.”

We live on a planet that is spinning at 1,000 mph and speeding through space at 67,000 mph. So, even on a day when you didn’t get much done, you did travel 1.6 million miles! I know people who say they’ve never experienced a miracle. With all due respect, you have never not experienced a miracle. In fact, you are one!

Remember the 10 lepers whom Jesus healed? All 10 were healed physically, but only one was healed of ingratitude. Which one? The one who came back and said thanks! Thanks is the flywheel of gratitude, and in my opinion, thanks will take you farther than talent.

How do you cultivate happy and healthy relationships?

How do you make amends for the mistakes you’ve made?

How do you shift the atmosphere at home?
How do you change the culture at work?

How do you win friends and influence people?

You get really good at saying please, sorry, and thanks!

If you found this blog helpful and would like to dig deeper into this topic, Mark’s newly-released book, PLEASE, SORRY, THANKS, may be purchased at a number of online booksellers as well as at:

If you would like to hear more from Mark, you can watch his talk based on another one of his books (Double Blessing) here:

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