Don‘t Bungle “Thank You!”


I bet at least once a week, each and every one of you goes “over and above” for one of your colleagues at work. I bet they say some version of, “Thanks, you really helped me out.”

What is your response 99.999% of the time?
“No problem.”
“It’s nothing.”
“Glad to help.”
“You’re welcome.”
“That’s my job.”
“Need anything else?”
“Call on me any time.”

These are knee-jerk (or conditioned) responses. With each of these, you’ve bungled “Thank you.”

In the world of behavioral science—and influence—the concept of reciprocity tells us that we feel obligated to return the favors of others. To the extent that’s true, it means two things:

  1. At the moment when someone says “thanks” to you, a door opens up in front of you with an opportunity to ask for something in return. The probability is never higher that the other person will say “yes” to a reasonable request you make of them in that moment.

  2. When you give almost any version of “no problem” as an answer, you’re reducing the value of what you did for them to zero! Why would you do that? (I once had a participant in a seminar say, “I don’t want people to be beholden to me.” My response, “Really?!? I want everyone to be beholden to me! It’s the currency I get to use to create influence.”)

Seriously, if 95% of the time, when others say, “thanks,” you say “no problem,” I have no problem with that. But if, at some point, you WILL need something from them, don’t bungle the “Thank you.”

Think of something else to say, like:

  •   »   “I know you would do the same for me.”

  •   »   “If I ever need your expertise, can I call on you?”

  •   »   “I’ve got a project coming up in the next week (or month).
            Would you be able to give me a hand?”

Even though the probability of the other person saying “yes” has gone up, their free choice has not been suspended. They might still respond, “I’d help you any other time, but I’m slammed next week.”

On the second day of a two-day Influence Without Authority class, a participant exclaimed, “This stuff works! After class, I was talking with one of my colleagues. He thanked me for something I had done for him. Instead of saying, ‘no problem,’ I said, ‘I’m in a class for two days – would you do me a favor and print that activity report for me?’ ‘Sure,’ was the response.”

So, if you don’t want to bungle the “thank you,” fight the conditioned (or knee-jerk) response of “no problem” and at least try to “bank” the goodwill you created. You’ll never think of the words “thank you” the same way from now on. Sooooooo (not) sorry!



Influence requires planning!

By the way, influence gets generated by plan, not by chance. Think of the people you interact with every day. Whose assistance WILL you need at some point? What will you be prepared to say the next time they say “thank you”?

Or better yet, what might you do for them today (or sometime in the near future) that might give you the opportunity to “bank” the “thanks”?

In effect, you’re building the currency you need to create influence by “Paying It Forward.” This makes you better prepared to trigger reciprocity, the next time the opportunity arises.



Related Video:

In this video clip, Joe Friedman discusses "Reciprocity" as a helpful tool of influence. We are forever trading things of value with other people. Here Joe suggests we: Offer help and be mindful of how we say ‘thank you.‘


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