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The Words Do Matter

Air Canada Flight 154

I was boarding a flight in Edmonton, Alberta, bound for Toronto after a long day. As I handed my boarding pass to the Air Canada gate agent, I asked her if she was having a good day. Her response has been in my mind for nearly two weeks. She looked at me, smiled, and said, “All the better for you asking me, thanks.”

As I literally skipped down the jetway, I smiled. I have asked hundreds of people if they are having a good day. Never have I received that response. I’ve heard, “It’s ok.”, “No not really,” and “Fine, thanks.” But never, until now, have I heard “All the better for you asking me, thanks.”

Her response was gracious and warm. It wowed me as a Customer – giving me a very positive experience with Air Canada (even before I was on the plane!) More importantly, it made me feel special as a human being. Perhaps she was taught to say this by a parent at a young age and it was an automatic response. Even if this were true, her genuine response makes that irrelevant.
What would have been a normal flight was changed by eight words – eight words I am sure I will never forget.

The Internet Essay

Recently I read an essay from one of my favorite writers. Scott Ringwelski writes an essay each week called Positive Pause. Last week’s issue starts . . .

“ No Problem…actually is.

‘ No problem.’ It seems natural, easy going, off the cuff, casual.

It’s a throwaway line for a disposable world.

However, how does your throwaway line and casual attitude translate to those you say it to?”

Scott goes on to say that the two words are actually two negatives, no and problem. Through a wonderful personal story he relates that rather than answering a request with “no problem,” it would be much more meaningful and powerful to say “It would be my pleasure.” Scott knows, as does my Edmonton friend, that choosing these words can make a huge difference.


A few hours ago my step mother passed away. While there are many ways she blessed my life and there will be many things I will remember about her, the thing that strikes me now is one of her favorite phrases. “Terrific!” Ask Rhea how she was, and she, more often than not, would say “Terrific!” Even over the last few months when she was very ill. When you saw her, or spoke to her on the phone, if you asked how she was, she would say, “Terrific!”

Certainly in these last few months she hasn’t always been terrific, at least by most people’s standards. Her optimistic reply though, always lifted my day – even if I were calling to try and lift hers.

The Common Thread

In all of these cases, the words chosen by people have made a positive difference to those around them. As a consultant if I think about these word choices, I could easily make a case that using these phrases would be powerful in terms of Customer Service, and internal communications.

Most importantly though is that choosing these words transforms the people who say the words. Think about my Air Canada friend saying, “All the better for you asking me, thanks!”, or anyone saying “It’s been a pleasure,” or “Terrific!”
These phrases recast our thinking and our self talk in a more positive, focused, and accountable way. Indeed, these words can make a big difference in the lives of others, and in our lives as well.

The words do matter. To everyone.

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