What’s the best way to reply to a “thank you”? While you can always say “you’re welcome” or “no problem,” it is beneficial to have a variety of responses depending upon the situation you’re in.
Here are a couple of ways to respond to a “thank you” in all kinds of situations.
Table of Contents
- Simply say “you’re welcome”
- Refrain from “not a problem” or “anytime” if you do not mean it
- How to respond to a compliment when you feel you don’t deserve it
- The best way to respond to “Thank you” is by truly receiving it
- Simply, you should say, “You’re welcome”
- “No problem” is a problem
- “We’re always happy to help”
- You need to acknowledge their feelings of gratitude
Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, Kernell Wellness Counseling
Saying thank you expresses one’s acknowledgment and gratitude of a particular act that may have been performed in their favor. But, how someone responds to thank you can be full of nuances that may be harder to decode. Here are a few ways of how to respond to thank you, and why:
Simply say “you’re welcome”
If it’s the case where you completed something for someone that was either unexpected (perhaps a surprise) or requested and they say thank you, simply say you’re welcome. Although this message could tell the sender that they were welcome to allow what action occurred that yielded a thank you, it can still be considered a harmless response. The acronym K.I.S.S. or Keep It Simple Silly seems permissible in this situation.
Refrain from “not a problem” or “anytime” if you do not mean it
It could be the case where doing something that wasn’t necessarily your responsibility still yielded a “thank you” from an individual. Now what? What do you say? It might not pan out in your favor to say something like “not a problem” or “anytime.”
Due to the fact that it may have actually been a problem for you, and you don’t see yourself doing the favor again literally anytime, do yourself and the other party favor and stop yourself from saying those phrases. This can send a message to others that you may be available to complete whatever task it was again and again— a risk you might not want to take on.
International Speaker | Recognition Expert | Founder, Beyond Thank You
How to respond to a compliment when you feel you don’t deserve it
In 2008, I interviewed over 400 people on the subway in Boston to study why people struggle to both give and receive Acknowledgment, Recognition, and Praise.
In my study, I found that although the number one thing people associated with being recognized (88%) was feeling valued, nearly 70% of people associated embarrassment and discomfort with the process. When I asked people why recognition made them uncomfortable, although there were multiple reasons, one of the most common answers:
“I feel I don’t deserve it.”
In my years of studying this subject, I have found that people often feel this way for a few different reasons. Here is how to respond to each:
I was thanked for someone else’s work:
If this is the case, simply respond with, “That is really great to hear you feel that way, but John was the one responsible for this project. He will be thrilled to hear how you feel.”
The work was a team effort:
If this is the case, respond with, “Thank you for saying that. Our team has been working really hard. I will let everyone know how you feel.”
And, the most common reason, “I feel like I could have done better”:
What most people do not realize is that a compliment is often more about the giver than the receiver. When someone compliments you, they are sharing how what you did impact them. It does not matter if you agree with what they said, just relate to their feedback as you would a gift, and say, “thank you!”
Transformational Coach | Relationship and Dating Expert | Author of the upcoming book “Soul on Fire“
The best way to respond to “Thank you” is by truly receiving it
You don’t even need to respond in a verbal way – just allow the intention behind the words to sink in. From my point of view, saying ‘thank you’ is an acknowledgment and an expression of gratitude.
It doesn’t matter what the person is thanking you for or how they express it. The key is in receiving the energy and appreciation that are coming your way. Most of the time, when we hear ‘Thank you,’ we just go over it, thinking: “Yeah, right, that was nothing“. By doing this, we even push the other person away.
If you are having trouble receiving the gratitude of others, here are a few questions to play with through journaling or introspection: “What is really holding me back from receiving another person’s gratitude? What beliefs do I have around this?” Could it be that you believe that if you receive their gratitude, you would need to do something again to give back to this person?
Don’t take an expression of “Thank you” for granted and automatically skip over it.
Make a conscious effort to go beyond just hearing the words, and take in the gratitude of the person. Allow it to sink in and let yourself be touched. When you start receiving the gratitude of others, you will start gaining more and more insight into how much people are grateful for you.
Your willingness to receive will also invite others to express their acknowledgment even more. Allow yourself to receive this precious gift, as someone’s gratitude for you can truly nourish your heart.
Speaker | Educator | Author
It’s often said that it’s not what we say but how we say it that has the greatest impact on people. For instance, just because someone says thank you does not mean that it’s a genuine expression of appreciation.
It could possibly be a habitual behavior that we’ve been conditioned to do from a young age. However, a simple “thank you” can go a long way and build unprecedented connections with others or unravel pent-up frustration. Thus, the response can affirm or shift the dynamics of the relationship at stake.
Common responses to the phrase thank you consist of:
- “you’re welcome”
- “no problem”
- “my pleasure”
- “it was an honor”
- a head nod
- and silence to name a few
Yet, the response depends on the situation, the context of the thank you, and the relational background of all parties involved. For instance, if a teacher provides a student with supplies because they are unprepared for the lesson, the student should reply with a grateful “you’re welcome” because the student could not complete their assignments otherwise.
If your best friend picks up your kids from school because you and your partner both have to work late, the best friend may reply with “no problem” because they want to help. If your partner sneezes, your reply may consist of silence because of a mutual understanding.
If you constantly have to wait on a colleague to complete their work tasks before you can complete your part, they may respond with “sure” or “okay” because they are sarcastically being petty due to their slow productivity.
If your parents keep their grandkids for spring break, which they haven’t seen for a long time, they may reply with “my pleasure” or “it was an honor” because they receive joy spoiling their grandkids then sending them back home to you.
If an elder makes a donation at the local charity organization, they’d kindly respond with a head nod. If your sibling borrowed your car and brought it back later than the agreed upon time, they’d reply with a sleazy “whatever” because they have no consideration for your schedule.
Whatever the response may be to the phrase “thank you,” it will definitely not go unnoticed.
Michael A. Gisondi, MD
Associate Professor and Vice-Chair of Education, Stanford University Medical Center
Simply, you should say, “You’re welcome”
I learned this the hard way, over the years, as an emergency room physician. Many times my patients and their families would look me in the eyes and, with such emotion, express their gratitude for my care.
And for many years, I found it uncomfortable to simply accept their thanks – I would instead use phrases such as, “Oh, its nothing, I was just doing my job!” Then the emotion in their eyes would fade, as my insecure response devalued their thanks.
After 18 years of practice, I am still thrilled when a patient says, thank you. I get up in the morning to take care of others. When they say “thank you,” I say, “you’re welcome, it was my pleasure to care for you today.”
Consultant | Coach | Speaker
“No problem” is a problem
How many times have you thanked someone, and they respond with “no problem?” It happens more times than I can count. Where I truly appreciated their service, assistance, information, guidance, never once did I think any of it was a problem.
I’m not sure how that phrase became so commonplace. I realize it’s said with good intent. That said, sadly, it’s not only ineffective, but it also downplays and defeats the well-intentioned and appreciative thank you. Bottom line, responding “no problem” is problematic.
When receiving a “thank you,” at a minimum, say “you’re welcome.”
Better yet, expand on that sentiment with a more personalized response, such as:
“I’m happy I could help.”
“I’m glad we could take care of it.”
“I know this was important to you, and I’m glad we could handle it.”
“You’re a great patient/customer/client, and I’m happy to do this.”
“This is exactly why we’re here and what we do – and I’m happy to be able to help you.”
Some may think this is common sense. But, in reality, it’s not very common. Instead of minimizing the thank you with a “no problem,” respond with something that highlights that very acknowledgment you just received.
“You’re welcome. I’m glad to help!”
Personal Injury Attorney | Owner, Hill Law Firm
“We’re always happy to help”
When former clients reach out to say, “thank you,” we like to respond with, “We’re always happy to help.”
Because we’re a boutique injury law firm, we emphasize the importance of being accessible in all of our communication from start to finish. We rely on our clients and their positive reviews of our interactions with them whether they hire us to represent them or not.
We’re truly a 24/7 firm that responds to clients whenever they reach out to us, which is usually in the midst of a highly stressful situation. Most of our clients don’t expect to receive the amount of personal attention that we’re able to provide over the course of their interactions with us from the time we meet to the time we settle a case.
So when they reach out with words of gratitude and a “thank you,” we want them to know that serving them is at the forefront of our work and that we are here for them even after our services have been concluded.
Alesha R. Brown, MBA
Award-Winning Entrepreneur | CEO, Fruition Publishing Concierge Services
You need to acknowledge their feelings of gratitude
Don’t say, “Why are you thanking me?” OR “Thanks for what? I didn’t do anything.”
A “thank you” means the person is appreciative of whatever you did for them or whatever your actions were. They are thanking you for making a difference or impact on their lives or in a particular situation. So, therefore, you need to acknowledge their expression, feelings of gratitude, and the difference that they are acknowledging you for. The above responses don’t do that and can make the person feel wrong for thanking you.
If, like myself, you are often shocked or feel so emotional that you don’t know what to say, here are a few ideal responses:
“You are more than welcome.”
“Thank you for the opportunity to…”
You can use a few words, or you can start with these and follow these phrases with how grateful you were to make a difference in their lives.
Founder, Director, and Chief Executive, Net Lawman
You need to approach the way to respond to a thank you remark, depending on what situation you are in.
Are you in a formal context, or is it more informal? Are you addressing someone higher than you, or lower than you, in a professional situation? Is it a professional setting, or are we in a casual, friendly situation?
What is the age of the individual thanking you – this is also something to do with formality in a way as you should remark more formally to those of an older generation.
For formal settings, I would suggest the following responses to “thank you”
- “You are most welcome”
- “It was my pleasure”
- “That is alright, feel free to reach out again anytime”
For more informal settings, I would use the following:
- “no problem”
- “no worries”
It is polite to turn the thanks on itself, and you can thank the individual as well, either for thanking you, for their company, for the experience.
Managing Director, Beyond Better Strategy and Coaching
I think this is an issue for all of us in our daily engagements when we are thanked at a shop, or by someone after treating them to a meal or opening a door.
The most important thing when responding to someone’s thanks is to acknowledge it. There is a trend of people saying “no problem,” but that is not adequate. It implies that you don’t really understand that what you did made a difference to someone. I usually respond to thank you with, “It’s my pleasure.”
I made a conscious decision to do that many years ago because it creates a complete social cycle of graciousness. In other words, it forms a circular experience of someone doing something kind or gracious, the recipient feeling gratitude and saying thank you, and then acknowledging that you were kind because you enjoy being kind. It creates a cohesive whole.
My hope is to add to virtuous cycles of people being kind, being appreciated, and perpetuating the circuit by expressing their own delight in doing something for someone else. In our culture, we admire people who are generous and giving (as we should), but we often fail to notice that kindness and generosity are pleasurable for those being kind and generous –not just for the recipients of those acts. So responding to “thank you” by saying it was a pleasure expresses that.