The Correct–and Safe–Way to Request Information or Ask Directions in Public Places

When Seeking Information or Asking Directions

When seeking information or asking directions, the best place to start is at a designated Information Center, today internationally identified by the letter “I” in public facilities around the world. Absent an easily accessible Information Center, the next-best option is to request assistance from uniformed personnel. However, when approaching armed, uniformed personnel such as police officers, security guards, or military servicemen, a gentleman, from about ten paces away, with his hands exposed, should first obtain the attention of the armed personnel by saying, for example, while walking towards the person, “Excuse me, officer, would you be so kind as to assist me?  I would like information on….”  Announcing one’s intention prior to approaching the officer or guard helps to put the armed personnel at ease. (It would be unwise for gentleman, for example, to approach an armed guard from behind, tap him on the shoulder, then proceed to ask for assistance. In today’s world, with heightened security as a result of the prevalence of terrorism, even trained personnel may become startled or feel threatened by otherwise innocent or benign behavior or gestures. When asking civilians for information or directions, a gentleman should smile, extend courtesies appropriate to the time of day, then present his request:  “Pardon me, ma’am.  Good afternoon. Would you be so kind as to tell me how to get to the nearest pharmacy?”  Whether the person is able to offer assistance of not, he or she should be thanked.


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