The four Ps: my personal credo
Sixteen years ago I was at the central police station in Muscat where I was working. No, I hadn’t broken any rules. I was getting clearance to change jobs. I had had to take time off work to go down there in working hours. The officer who took my papers asked me to come back the next day. As that would have meant more time off work, I wondered whether it might be possible to come back to collect the document in an hour’s time. In an hour and a half, he said. I thanked him profusely and went off to do some other errands. Ninety minutes later I returned to his desk. He told me the chief inspector still had not signed my document. Would I please take a seat? “No, thank you,” I replied. I am fine here.” I stood a little way away from his desk so others could go up and speak to him, but remained within his field of view. I smiled whenever he looked in my direction. Every ten minutes or so I went up to him and politely asked if there was any news. He reached for the phone each time.
After the best part of an hour, my patience was rewarded and the signed, stamped document was handed to me. I thanked the officer for his help and we smiled and wished each other a very good day.
As I drove on to my next destination to deliver the precious police clearance to the school to which I was transferring, I congratulated myself that I had achieved this in one morning and did not need to take time out to drive down town again the next day. What was the secret, I asked myself. I had achieved what I needed without feeling stressed and frustrated. Four words came into my mind: patience, politeness, pleasantness and persistence. It hit me that all four words began with ‘p’ and my new credo was born.
When I shared the experience with my boss on my return, he was delighted and said he would use this in his welcome to new teachers to help them weather the bureaucracy they would face on arrival.
It saddens me to recall an occasion in my early days in Oman when I lost my rag in an admin. office because a travel pass I needed for myself and my family to travel that day over the border to the U.A.E. did not include the children, so we could not have our weekend away. I shouted and stormed out of the office. The official who had made the mistake, and with whom I had had a good relationship previously, never really spoke to me again after that. I had made a scene and lost face. I wish I had thought of the four Ps earlier.
Over the rest of my time in Oman I actively practised using the four Ps to get me through what might have been stressful encounters. They worked miracles!
I was not sure the four Ps would cross borders. However, moving to other countries where I have had bureaucratic procedures to deal with and using them to get me through, I have ascertained that they are universal.
- You have to be patient. With the best will in the world official procedures can take time.
- You have to be persistent because you are usually one of many and can easily be ignored if you do not gently remind people you are there.
- You must be polite. Rudeness is an insult to all parties and gets you nowhere. Politeness oils the wheels.
- You must be pleasant. You feel better and you make the person you are dealing with feel better. It is a win-win situation.
And, you must use all four together.
So there you are; my credo for life and a good way to face the challenging times in which we find ourselves.
Try them yourself.
Encourage your students to try using them.