COLUMN: The Five Magic Words


Growing up you might have been taught this rhyme in primary school or heard your siblings recite it, it goes thus “There are 5 magic words (2x) that you must know; Please, excuse me, sorry, thank you, and the last one is pardon me.

The purpose for writing this piece is not to teach you a rhyme, not at all we have beyond that level, we are youths now, but are we ever going to outgrow using these words? Check them again.

Youths in Nigeria (Nigerians between the ages of 18-35) are about 64 million a large chunk of the country’s population. With this in mind, the youths are referred to as the country’s future, but are sometimes convicted by the elderlies of losing their manners. Are this old people right or wrong?

As a human being; your demeanour and what you say gives the world a clear picture of who you are, as the saying goes “Behaviour is like smoke, you can’t hide it”. So if your attitude determines your altitude, then what’s the benefit of having a bad attitude?

Let us be clear, your attitude is a state of the mind. It involves various beliefs, your values i.e. things you hold in high esteem, and this complex state of the mind sums up to influence your behaviour, words and moral outlook. Even the bible say’s Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. So what is it your mouth is speaking?



Now back to our rhyme, the five words engraved in it are: Please, Excuse me, Sorry, Thank you, and Pardon Me. So, why are they important?

Though we grew up as children clutching these soft words to our chest, I mean you would not expect to find a little child who doesn’t employ these words today, or can you count the number of times in a day that a child would say “please”?

Then we grew up into being teenagers and youths who use sharp pointy words to express ourselves, words that are said just to pierce people’s hearts, ours is a perverse world that loves to derail from social norms, or is it the norms that are derailing from us?

Some people view these words as being used by the lowly and weak, and opt to use a bunch of vile words to express their feelings. Again, I am perturbed; is a bad attitude meant to be such a celebrated super power?

Using these words show a level of decency, just like someone putting on beautiful clothes and a nice perfume, it turns out to be a sweet smelling savour that follows anyone conscious of their usage of words.

Today if two people were to be in a discussion and one says something that hurt the other, you will hear “excuse me” or even “excuse You” if the offender finds it hard to say sorry then “Gbas Gbos” would erupt just because the offender has an ego that is as tall as the Burj Khalifa.

Meanwhile saying a simple ‘sorry’ is not that you are weak in fact it shows that you are strong, being able to acknowledge one’s fault and apologise can open doors for such person in unimaginable ways. Even the bible says “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” ‘Sorry’ is such a soft answer that can stop a war.

Many people in our society feel they are so entitled to receive things from others, well that is partly true. In our society, people treat others as a means to an end, but humans are too precious to be treated as things to satisfy one’s pleasure.

Every human deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, and as an end in them, the happiness, and wellbeing of a fellow human should be paramount, but this is not what we are doing, we prefer to use a fellow human to achieve our happiness without minding the state of mind of the other. I am sure Immanuel Kant would not be too happy with us for flouting his maxim.

In her book “Words that change minds” Shelle Rose Charvet talks extensively on how we can use words to positively influence the minds of others, understand their views, behavioural patterns, and convey our ideas to them effectively.

These five words are not the only words that can be used to influence others and show ones level of dignity, there are countless other words that we employ almost unconsciously and we do not know how potent they are in creating an aura of respect around us.

I heard the story of a widow in Abuja that could not pay her house rent and was on the verge of being thrown out by her property owner. She knelt down before the man knowing fully well that she does not have any means of paying. All she did was to plead with tears, and it moved the man to the bones, he told her to continue staying there and not bother about rent again! Did I hear you say wow?

Well what if the woman had bottled up her problems and formed she was okay, she probably would have been thrown out. That is the power inside words we speak, and as students the earlier we understand that words can change minds the better positioned we are to use them effectively.

Many times youths have been accused of not showing gratitude, and what is the easiest means of showing gratitude! “Thank You“. Like I said earlier, many believe that they are entitled and so their show of gratitude is always not to the fullest.

Saying a heartfelt Thank you and not faking it can propel an individual to more heights than ever imagined, it’s not hard for a person that shows gratitude to receive even more.

In the words of C.Wilson “You wouldn’t be who you are without the help of others, acknowledge this and give thanks”. A grateful heart deserves more, and it doesn’t matter how big or small you have been helped what matters is your acknowledgement and gratitude.

It’s amazing how we know these words but don’t seem to use them consciously, when we continue to use these kind of words, it shows that we value others and we value a smooth relationship, it shows that our state of mind is one of bliss.

Just for you to note, this is not a civic education class, but then the responsibilities of a youth is not just to be present when censorship is going on, but to affect the lives of people positively no matter how small it seems, even the slightest affirmative word can change another person’s day for the better.

The question now is, what kind of words are you saying?




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  • Adekunle Oluwatobi

    Adekunle Oluwatobi is a poet and a writer with a profound interest in discussions aimed at building a productive society and fostering peaceful coexistence.
    He is friendly, amicable and also an ardent sports enthusiast. A lover of books and quality information, he is on a quest of reaching out to people by improving the quality of information they receive.

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