Correct Ways to Respond to “Thanks!”

I thought it only fitting to share some ideas about the right ways to respond to “Thanks,” seeing as this week Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving.

A theme I repeat during the Principles of Persuasion workshop is this – small changes can make big differences. How you respond to “thank you” seems like a small thing but it can make a big difference to the other person.

During keynotes Dr. Robert Cialdini often shares a story about an Australian businessman who attended one of his conferences. Dr. Cialdini noticed the man visibly changed as he spoke. When they had an opportunity to talk the man shared a story.

He said he owned a software business located in Sydney and his largest client was in Melbourne, a distance of roughly 700 miles. This important client had a software problem so the business owner took his top two technicians and accompanied them on the trip. The good news was, they solved the problem rather quickly.

The IT director profusely thanked the man, noting how he, as the owner of the company, took time out of his busy schedule to make the trip along with his top two people. She said it was above and beyond her expectations. What the man did next sealed his fate because he never got any more business from this very important client!

Perhaps a little embarrassed by all the praise he said, “It was no big deal. We love to come to Melbourne. The nightlife is great as are the restaurants. Don’t think anything of it.”

Do you notice what he did? She felt his approach was above and beyond the call of duty. It made her feel special and he basically said, “You’re not special. We would do this for anyone to have the chance to come to Melbourne.”

Pay attention to how people respond to you when you thank them. I bet you get one of these responses at least 90% of the time:

  • “No problem.”
  • “No big deal.”
  • “Just doing my job.”
  • “I would have done it for anyone.”
  • Or worst of all, silence.

Strike each of these responses from your vocabulary! None of those does anything to engage the other person and make them feel special. It doesn’t matter how much effort it took you; what matters is what it meant to the other person.

I have a friend I used to reach out to for lunch every month. One day he thanked me and, not knowing anything about persuasion at the time, I replied, “It’s not that I’m such a nice guy; I’m just really good with my computer.” You see, I had set up a recurring task to remind me to call him at the beginning of each month. It was effortless for me BUT it meant a lot to him. I was fortunate he was a long-time friend because he responded graciously. I never forgot that exchange because was an “ah ha” moment for me about how to respond to “Thanks.”

How could I have responded to my friend? I should have said something like this; “Your friendship means a lot to me so I’m happy to reach out to you each month. I appreciate you making room in your schedule to get together consistently.”

How could the Sydney software executive have responded? Any of the following would have been better than his actual response:

  • “You’re one of our most important clients so I was happy to do this for you.”
  • “That’s what long-term partners do for one another. Thank you for trusting us.”
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with us. We appreciate you and your business.”

And how will you response next time someone thanks you?

  • “It would have killed an ordinary person but I was glad to risk it for you.” (People like humor)
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with me.”
  • “I was happy to do it. I appreciate you (or your business).”

So let’s wrap this up with a final thought. Thanksgiving is this week so let that day be a reminder for you as to how you should respond to “Thank you!” Use those opportunities to engage people in ways that make them feel special and even better about dealing with you. That added satisfaction will keep them coming back and increase the odds that they’ll share your fame with their friends and business associates.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
11 replies
  1. Paula Dallas
    Paula Dallas says:

    Great article. Love the suggestion of turning a "thank you" into an opportunity to praise or thank your customer instead. Important relationship building tip.

    • Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
      Brian Ahearn, CMCT® says:

      His inappropriate response led to never getting any business from that client. The lesson is, don’t devalue what you do. It’s not what it cost you (time, effort, money, etc.) but what it means to the client.


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