Why You Shouldn't Say "You're Welcome", by Adam Grant
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Give and Take
Adam Grant begins:
The script is so deeply ingrained that you don’t even need to think about it. When you do a favor, and someone says “thank you,” the automatic response is “you’re welcome.” It’s a basic rule of politeness, and it signals that you accept the expression of gratitude—or that you were happy to help.
But according to one leading psychologist, this isn’t the best choice of words. After four decades of studying persuasion, Influence author Robert Cialdini has come to see “you’re welcome” as a missed opportunity. “There is a moment of power that we are all afforded as soon as someone has said ‘thank you,’” Cialdini explains. To capitalize on this power, he recommends an unconventional reply:
“I know you’d do the same for me.”
There are at least three potential advantages of this response. First, it conveys that we have the type of relationship where we can ask each other for favors and help each other without keeping score. Second, it communicates confidence that you’re the kind of person who’s willing to help others. Third, it activates the norm of reciprocity, making sure that you feel obligated to pay the favor back in the future.
The article gets better from there.
Here's the main point of the article:
In English, it’s a relatively new arrival. Over the past century, “you’re welcome” has evolved to connote that it’s my pleasure to help you or “you are welcome to my help,” which we tend to say more directly in other languages like Spanish and French (“the pleasure is mine,” “it was nothing,” “no problem”). Is there a better alternative?
I stumbled upon an answer after meeting Adam Rifkin, a serial entrepreneur who was named Fortune’s best networker. He goes out of his way to help a staggering number of people, doing countless five-minute favors—making introductions, giving feedback, and recommending and recognizing others. After Rifkin does you a favor, it’s common for him to reach out and ask for your help in return.
At first, it seems like he’s just following the norm of reciprocity: since he helped you, you owe him. But there’s a twist: he doesn’t ask you to help him. Instead, he asks you to help him help someone else.
Rifkin is more concerned about people paying it forward than paying it back. In his view, every favor that he does is an opportunity to encourage other people to act more generously. That way, a broader range of people can benefit from his contributions.
After watching Rifkin in action, it dawned on me that Cialdini’s line could be adapted. Instead of “I know you’d do the same for me,” how about this response?
“I know you’ll do the same for someone else.”
Just like Cialdini’s reply, it affirms your character as a person who’s happy to be helpful. Unlike his version, it doesn’t deliver the implicit message that you’re indebted to me, and I’m waiting for you to repay it.
It’s just a sentence, but the underlying values have the potential to fundamentally change the way that people interact. In traditional direct reciprocity, people trade favors back and forth in pairs. In contrast, Rifkin’s approach is called generalized reciprocity. As described by political scientist Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone, “I’ll do this for you without expecting anything specific back from you, in the confident expectation that someone else will do something for me down the road.”
Once again Adam Grant has articulated my own beliefs better than I have been able to. Kudos!
That's awesome Adam, what a great line. I'll be upgrading my own ritualistic responses to this one now. Thanks--and yes, I will do the same for someone else...!