AS a child, I believed in the magical power of certain words. I read with awe as Alladin’s “Open sesame!” disclosed a cave full of treasures. I often pretended to be a magician who with an “Abracadabra” and a wave of the hand could magically pull out a rabbit from a hat.

Today, I still believe in the magical power of certain words. While I know that “Open, sesame” and “Abracadabra” will not yield me treasures and magic, I know that there are four words that can certainly work magic in our career, relationships and life. Using (or not using) these powerful words can be life changing, either positively or negatively.

What are these words? These words are quite ordinary really. They are: “I’m sorry” and “Thank you.” You think, so what’s the big deal? Isn’t this what we learn in good manners and right conduct in elementary? While these words are simple enough and taught early in life, it is amazing how many people (myself included long ago) do not appreciate the extraordinary power of these ordinary words. And while these had been taught to us since we were children, how many people really say these words meaningfully?

Let me illustrate. Several years ago, I committed a really big mistake that angered a friend and colleague. My first reaction was to explain why it wasn’t my mistake, that it was a mistake of my subordinate and that I did all that I could to prevent such a mistake from happening. In short, I was being defensive and trying to escape responsibility for the disaster. I was met with an anger so palpable it felt like a heat wave. It seared to death our friendship and our professional relationship.

But one comment that I still remember over the years from the aggrieved party was: “And you didn’t even say you were sorry!”

Recently, I committed another mistake (yes, I am human and commit many mistakes!). The other party had every right to be angry and I prepared myself for the onslaught. As I listened to their reactions, I remembered my lesson. I said I was sorry it happened, that if they could please accept my apologies. The fact was, I was really sorry for the trouble I caused them. And I said it over and over again. Magically, the parties accepted my sincere apologies.

Saying “I’m sorry” showed that I recognized that I made a mistake and would like to make amends. Saying “I’m sorry” makes forgiveness and healing possible. Can you imagine what a difference these words can make at work where so much conflict and intrigue abound or in our own lives where so many wounded relationships remain unhealed?

The other two words that are very powerful are “Thank you.” At work and in life, we ask for so many things from our friends and colleagues. Many of us bombard the saints and God with our requests. And often, these requests are granted.

I ask my colleague, “Could you please cover for me on Wednesday at my radio program because I have to go to the doctor?” And he willingly takes over. I ask my staff, “Could you please pay the tuition fees of my daughter, I have to finish closing my page?” And she gracefully does. I pray to God, “Could you please keep my daughter and husband safe from harm?” And He does. Sometimes I forget to say “thank you” when these two words would have been the only payment required for the favor. Now, I know I cannot say “thank you” often enough because a favor once given in times of need can never be repaid.

I have also been on the other side of requests. I often answer e-mail and text messages requesting for career advice or job opportunities. While I do this personally with no sophisticated technology or staff to help me, I am compelled to do so.

My conscience bothers me when I don’t since I could easily give them the information they request. But I notice that out of a hundred messages I answer, only five or so would reply with a thank you. But you know what, the few who do reply make me feel that I have been useful in some way to some one. It is a good feeling to be on the receiving end of a “thank you.”

I wrote this column not only to share the power of these words with readers but also to take this opportunity to say “I’m sorry” to all those I offended and “Thank you” to all those who have helped and supported me in my endeavors. Well, I need not mention names—you know who you are!

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. Published in Metro Working Mom April 2005.

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Founding Editor, People at Work, Business, Phiippine Daily Inquirer

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