"Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back." -- Thomas Sowell
Politeness is one of the easiest ways to connect with others because it demonstrates that you respect them. As part of the 2012 California Clown Campin' curriculum the staff and participants attended a performance of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Dragons. Before the show we were guests at a private reception with some of the performers, including Paulo dos Santos who plays a prominent part in the show. I heard somebody else ask him where he came from, and he replied that he is from Brazil. I know that they speak Spanish in that country. People were asking him to pose for photos with them. So, when I got my chance I said, "por favor," which is Spanish for please. After our picture was taken, I said, "Gracious!" which is Spanish for thank you.
I was surprised by his reaction. Paulo turned to me, gave me a firm handshake, and said, "Thank you my friend."
I don't know many Spanish words. Most of what I know I learned when I toured with the Carson & Barnes Circus in 1980. During that summer I had the opportunity to work with a young man from Mexico named Ernesto. He had no previous experience as a clown, but D.R. Miller asked me to incorporate Ernesto into our clown acts. When we started working together Ernesto spoke only Spanish and I spoke only English. We discovered we could communicate effectively through pantomime, but in consideration to him I began learning a little Spanish so I could speak to him. The first English words that he learned were related to our acts. That consideration for each other led to a wonderful rapport that was obvious to people watching us perform. Many of the people with the show commented to me on how well Ernesto and I were able to work together.
In 2010, I went to Singapore as part of a Clown Camp program. I knew that most people in that country are bilingual and speak English to conduct business. Singapore is a multicultural city and people also speak the native language of their ancestors. I learned that "Terima Kasih" is the way to say thank you in the native language of many of the people who would be in our audiences. (I believe that it is also the way to say thank you in Malaysia where the World Clown Association is holding their 2013 convention.) So, I created a bilingual magic effect for my performances in Singapore. After the audience applauded the first time, I held up a slip of paper that said "Thank you" but the first word was upside down. I tore up this mismade slip and folded the pieces together. When I started to unfold the paper, a bundle of paper dropped to the floor. The audience thought that contained the torn up pieces. When I got the strip of paper completely unfolded, I revealed that it had been restored with "Thank You" lettered on it properly. When the audience called my attention to the paper on the floor, I unfolded it revealing it was a whole strip of paper with "Terima Kasih" lettered on it. When the audience realized that I had taken the time to learn how to say thank you in their own language they responded enthusiastically. It was one of the best received routines in my performances. (Directions for performing the basic effect are included in Creativity for Entertainers Volume Three: Creative Routines.) I ended the trip by performing at a school where students with special needs learn to work in the food service industry. They prepared a wonderful buffet for us, and I was invited to visit them in their kitchen. Some of the students didn't respond to me very much at first. When I was ready to leave, I said, "Terima Kasih!" The students laughed, and then they all applauded as I exited the room.
I have discovered that the easiest way to learn to say thank you in another language is to ask somebody when you visit a different culture. They are flattered that you care enough to ask, and are eager to help you learn. Then you can use your new knowledge to connect with others in that culture. It takes just a little effort, but the results are amazing.
How can you incorporate saying thank you into your performances? How can you make consideration for others a part of what you do?