Yes, I once found it annoying hearing after maybe the 50th time Steve Martin say in his 1977 stand-up comedy album Let’s Get Small, “ExCUUUUUUUse ME!” ….. Now, I miss it. I really miss it.
Have you noticed that very few people say, “excuse me” politely anymore? It’s as if those words completely left the English language.
Why is that? When and why did we abandon “excuse me?”
Maybe it’s because excuse me is also used on many occasions, sarcastically and hence it doesn’t sound as sincere when asking to move past someone? Maybe we’re more afraid that someone will misinterpret our meaning as being rude rather than us trying to be polite? You know, I actually don’t believe any of these excuses for a second. Ha, actually, not to use “excuse” me is an “excuse.” I couldn’t resist.
It has frequently been quoted that 93% of all daily communication is nonverbal. And yet, in fact, according to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, he conducted several studies on nonverbal communication and found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 56% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc.). Subtracting the 7% for actual vocal content, leaves us with the 93% statistic.
The fact of the matter is that the exact number is not important. The important part is that most communication is nonverbal. In fact, nonverbal behavior is the most crucial aspect of communication. And yet, stats or no stats, bumping into, or reaching across, or walking by ones eyeline without saying a word, is just plain rude in my opinion. And it drives me crazy. To the point where I say, “excuse me” for the person, and now I’M not being pleasant … I’m now being rude. UGH.
I don’t want to have to interpret someone else’s move when they could quite simply say “excuse me.” I mean, hey, I don’t know what you’re doing. I don’t know what you want. Not even to get a grunt?! I’m now supposed to be a mind reader?
Why do we seem to tiptoe around these words? If you don’t like the words “excuse me,” “pardon me,” or any other polite words that gesture that you want something, then let’s make up a new expression. You know, like Jerry Seinfeld did in one episode of “Seinfeld” where he replaced; “God Bless You,” with “You are so good looking.” Would that work?
It’s a simple resolve to a simple quandary. The fact that I need to mention this is baffling to me, and yet, I felt compelled.
The idea that we need to write about, talk about, remind oneself, or even teach others to be nice and polite feels like a setback. How disappointing that we cannot muster enough breath, and/or pause for a moment to be polite.
I’m asking you, or perhaps you can ask yourself, the next time you reach across or want to walk past someone, think, hmmmmm I should just say; “excuse me.” Now THAT would be the polite thing to do.