How frequently are people saying ‘please’? Not very often, study finds.

A recent study conducted by UCLA has found that people are not using the word “please” very frequently. In fact, the research revealed that “please” was only used around 7% of the time when making requests, regardless of age. This finding challenges the common notion that good manners and politeness are emphasized from a young age. Interestingly, psychologists suggest that saying “no thank you” instead of “please” might actually be considered more polite in certain situations. Overall, the study highlights a decline in the use of polite language when asking for something, with “please” being used less than 1 in 10 times.
Despite being taught to say please, the word is not commonly used in conversations, as discovered by the UCLA team. After analyzing 17 hours of video footage, where over 1,000 participants interacted with their families, workers, and patrons, researchers found that men and women used please at a similar frequency, approximately 6% to 7% of the time. Interestingly, individuals of any gender used please more often when making requests to men. However, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, the word please was not used frequently. This raises the question: have children nowadays forgotten their manners?
According to a study, children are just as likely as adults to use the word “please”. The research found that children used the word in 10% of their requests to adults, while adults used it in 8% of their requests to children and 6% of their requests to other adults. The study suggests that this trend has been consistent over time, with similar findings observed in a study conducted in 1984. It is worth noting that the word “please” can be used both to exert pressure and to express politeness.
According to Chalfoun, approximately half of the instances where someone says “please” are actually attempts to pressure the other party into complying with their request. It is often used when making a request that shouldn’t be made, but is still done so out of self-interest. In a study, an example was given of a daughter asking her mother to “please” buy her a dress after the mother had already refused. Chalfoun explains that using “please” in these cases is more like a partial pre-apology, acknowledging the problematic nature of the request but still prioritizing one’s own needs. This is why “please” is not considered a typical expression of politeness.
According to Vanessa Bohns, a social psychology professor at Cornell University, our use of “please” as a way to pressure others into getting what we want is related to our discomfort with saying no. Bohns explains that people find it difficult to decline requests because it is considered impolite. By adding “please” to a request, the asker is reminding the person of societal norms of politeness, essentially saying, “Remember your manners.”

However, a study suggests that using “please” is not always polite. Instead, it is often used strategically when patience would be a more polite approach. This highlights that strictly adhering to a code of manners, such as always saying “please” and “thank you” or never saying “no” outright, does not always result in the most polite behavior.
According to Chalfoun, whether saying “please” is a display of good manners or a form of coercion depends on the specific context. He believes that it is not productive to enforce strict rules about what is considered good or bad behavior. Instead of focusing on a set of rules, Chalfoun suggests that we should encourage children to think about the underlying meaning and consider broader principles, such as being patient, considerate of others, and waiting our turn. Rather than demanding someone to fulfill our immediate desires, we should be mindful of their needs and preferences.