Three important words you should know

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 April, 2006, 12:00am

'Nowadays, manners are easy and life is hard.'

- former British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli

Knowing when to say 'thank you', 'sorry', and 'excuse me' are essential in interpersonal communication. Adopting a positive attitude is the first step to positive communication. Keeping positive can be hard, especially when we feel hurt at school or under pressure at work or challenged at home. But keeping a positive attitude can work wonders. Being polite and showing our appreciation of others, recognising our faults, and knowing when to speak up will help communication and make our lives so much easier.

Like it or not, we all need one another. Sometimes when we are least expecting it, someone will do something wonderful or completely out of the blue and it feels good, doesn't it? What should we say?

To express our feelings of gratitude we may say:

'Thanks', 'Thank you', 'Thanks a lot', 'Thank you very much'.

Why do we say 'Thank you'?

We say it because it is a natural human reaction and a positive, powerful gesture showing our appreciation of others in return.

Here are some different ways to say 'Thank you' from around the world.

Hong Kong - Doh je

China - Xie xie

German - Danke schon

Japan - Arigato

Spain/South America - Muchas gracias

Just like expressing thanks, seeking forgiveness or saying 'Sorry' is always the way to go when we believe we may have hurt friends, family or work mates. A real apology also has to be truthful; only when we admit to the situation can we solve problems and heal rifts with others.

When should we say sorry?

Easy - say you're sorry when you know exactly what you are apologising for. For example, when you can clearly remember the incident or moment when you were disrespectful or inconsiderate to another person or others.


'I'm sorry that I hurt you or that you feel hurt by what I did or said. There are no excuses for my actions and behaviour and I apologise.'

We all know Hong Kong is a crowded place. I'm sure we have all experienced the following situations: on the streets - a stranger bumps into us, steps on our foot, or coughs and sneezes right in our face. Perhaps this has happened to you at school or at work - a classmate or colleague butts in and interrupts you when you are in the middle of a sentence, or yawns. Or maybe out at lunch - the person at the opposite table belches loudly or starts smoking during the meal.

What should we say?

These three short, sweet words - 'Please excuse me!'

When do we say 'Excuse me'?

We say it when we need to get past someone, or get another person's attention or if we didn't hear or understand. We may even use it as an apology.


You want to walk past some people in the MTR tunnel. Don't push your way through; say 'Excuse me' in a loud voice first, but not in an angry tone, then go past.

In short, positive communication at home, school, work or on the streets will get positive results. Start with remembering and using these three important expressions - 'Thank you', 'Sorry' and 'Please excuse me' - whenever possible.


What should you say?

1. You are already reaching around someone for your pen. ______________________________________________________

2. Your friend is speaking very softly. _____________________________________

3. You want to show your gratitude to your colleagues for the work they've been doing.


4. You want to apologise to your friend for your behaviour and thank him or her for all the help he or she has given you.




1. Excuse me, I need to get that pen over there, please.

2. Excuse me, I didn't hear what you said. Could you speak up a bit?

3. I appreciate the work you guys are doing. Thanks.

4. Excuse me, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings and I'm sorry. I want to say thank you for your time and effort. I really appreciate your help and I'm sorry for the way I've been acting.