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  • Simone

Should I say please?

The question is should we, as PA Users, always say please and thank-you when asking PAs to perform their tasks or jobs on a day-to-day basis. The ‘P’ and ‘T’ words can often be associated with asking for and receiving favours: “can you do” rather than “I want you to do”. Implicit, in the ‘P’ word is that we are not expecting the request to be performed which can place us in a precious situation as our requests are a matter of life and death. But it does not necessarily have to be, it’s as simple as having the right to do whatever without pleading for assistance. For people not needing assistance they are able to get around and do whatever without uttering a word of appreciation. With the growth of automation we can increasingly go about our business without having to ask anyone for assistance. No longer have we needed to ask anything from sales assistants, train assistants, bank clerks and airport staff now we have all these automated machines to process our transitions. Similarly, for some disabled people they view their PAs as “machines” replacing their legs and arms, which do not require the ‘P’ and ‘T’ word. We do not always acknowledge staff operating the automated machines so why should this be any different when PAs are acting as PA user’s hands and legs? But what if, we decided as a society that we should always show gratitude for the staff presence and attendance?

In some cultures relationships between family and friends are so intimate that they become an extension of us. Once the relationships have been established, it is taken for granted that giving and taking of hospitality, assistance or whatever does not require any further expressions of gratitude. Giving orders to others is seen very much the same way, there is an expectation that friends’ and family members will just be there, giving mutual support. If our relationships are extensions rather than separate from ourselves then there is no need for any words of gratitude – after all we do not say please and thank-you to ourselves so why would we do the same with others who are part of our being. Thus, “p” and “t” words are viewed as an insult by some family members and friends because the terms can separate us from others, demoting our relationship to the status of mere strangers. Similarly , saying thank-you can mean that the gesture is not expected and in some cases can change the nature of the relationship; saying thank-you for a lift can be easily be viewed as a taxi-ride instead of friends helping each other at the hour of need. It is therefore assumed that absence of ‘P’ and ‘T’s denotes a close and receiptical relationship. And that ‘P’ and ‘T’ are for relationships that are mainly one-sided; this can be seen when we ask service staff or strangers to do something for us without expecting anything in return.

PAs are very similar to service staff, where the relationship is one sided - Very few PA users expect to have a reciprocal relationship with their PAs. For instance PA users are not expected to allow PAs to do their shopping or indeed anything else in exchange of personal assistance whilst on duty. And if PA and PA user is a single-sided relationship, then custom should suggest that the use of ‘P’ and ‘T’ are in order. It could be viewed as beneficial where the ‘P’ and ‘T’ words can easily create the space or distance between us and others, and therefore placing professional boundaries around the PA and PA user relationship. However on the other hand, ‘P’ and ‘T’ words may undermine the relationship – that is the PAs providing personal assistance is not taken for granted by the PA user. So what would be the basis of not having to show constant gratitude without allowing the relationship being similar to ones of family and friends? The answer must be the reciprocal relationship where the PA take orders and perform tasks without gratitude for an exchange of a wage paid by the PA user.

Whatever our relationships are, absence of the ‘P’ and ‘T’ terms does not mean there is a lack of something else that signifies value. The mere acceptance of personal assistance, similar to using a gift can be a better predictor of appreciation and gratitude as actions often speak louder than words; there is less opportunity for pretence in viewing how something has been direly received; too often people can hide behind words – what good is a please and thank-you when one actually felt uncomfortable with personal assistance?