Gratitude. We’re taught from a young age that we need to express it, and the first phrases we’re taught are please and thank you. I can’t remember being taught to say you’re welcome. I learned by example, and the common response in my home was, “No problem” or “Uh-huh”, which I don’t think qualifies as an actual response.
When we say you’re welcome, it receives a grateful heart. This is a very important aspect of connecting with the world around us. It gives us a way to say, in essence, “I enjoyed helping you, please let me know how I can help in the future”.
The subtext here is pure gratitude, and openness to receiving someone else’s gratitude. I think that seems pretty one-sided, though. It tells the thank-er that the thank-ee is willing to help, and the buck seems to stop there. I’m not at all in favor of the bucks stopping anywhere, when it comes to human connection and expressing gratitude.
So, Don’t stop the buck
It would seem I’m not alone in this feeling. Dr. Robert Cialdini, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, suggests that there is a missed opportunity in that phrase, and a better way to express what we mean, further increasing the cycle of positive reciprocation in communication and interaction. Dr. Cialdini says we should add, “I know you’d do the same for me”. Say it with me:
“You’re welcome. I know you’d do the same for me.”
See how amazing that sounds? The buck gains momentum with that phrase. It dives deeper; carries weight; ensures reciprocation. The person you’re showing gratitude will remember that you gave a little extra, and in all likelihood they will too.
Now, I’m the type of person who practices things in the mirror before I say them to someone’s face. It feels awkward as a stand alone phrase, so I plan to combine the two the very next time I have the chance, “You’re welcome. I know you’d do the same for me”.
There’s only one reason I’d add that extra sentence: I might need help sometime in the future. They might remember that sentence and know I think they are a kind person who will help. Communication and connection should be complimentary: I give, you take – then – you give, I take.
That phrase locks them into an obligation to help.
I know, sneaky, right?
But not underhanded. Don’t think of it as locking someone into something, so much as keeping your foot in the door for future use.
And don’t hold it against them if they don’t feel obligated. Just move on. Skip. Next. Oh, and don’t you feel obligated, either. The point isn’t that you’re not helpful, only that your help is better extracted and used in a different way.
If it still feels funny, do as Dr. Adam Grant suggests, change the phrase so that someone feels obligated to pay it forward, not back: “I know you’ll do the same for someone else”. Then it’s not back and forth, but always forward, and nobody feels like they owe anyone else, see?
Just don’t forget to receive the gratitude handed to you, even of you don’t add either of those phrases. It feels amazing to make someone else’s life a little happier.