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Robert Cialdini

How to Respond to 'Thank You'

We all spend hours of our days at work and home trying to convince other people to think or behave in certain ways.

In fact, research indicates that we all spend up to 40 percent of our time working to influence others. Those in sales, litigation and other arenas must dedicate much more of their time to persuasion.
 
That’s why I’m excited that my friend Brian Ahearn, an influence expert, this week published his first book, Influence PEOPLE, Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical.
 
Brian is one of 20 people worldwide certified by Dr. Robert Cialdini, the researcher whose books form the basis of the science of persuasion. Brian gave me a review copy of the book and what I love about it is that he applies the principles of influence to everyday work and life.
 
I purchased my own copy on Amazon and, if you have an interest in learning how to ethically persuade others to say “yes,” you’ll want to read this book as well. 


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When we first met about 10 years ago, Brian shared with me the influential way to respond to people who thank you. With Brian’s permission I’m including this excerpt from his book about responding to thanks:
 
A theme I repeat to audiences is this – small changes can make big differences. You’ve probably noticed I’ve repeated it in this book too. How you respond to “Thank you” seems like a small thing but it can make a big difference to the other person. 
 
Robert Cialdini often shares a story about an Australian businessman who attended one of his conferences. Cialdini noticed the man became visibly agitated as he spoke. When they had an opportunity to speak the man shared a story. 
 
He said he owned a software business located in Sydney, Australia 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. Fortunately, they solved the problem rather quickly. 
 
The IT director of the business thanked the man profusely, 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 client; his largest at the time! 
 
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.” 
 
Did you notice what he did? She felt he went above and beyond the call of duty. It made her feel special but he basically said, “You are 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. You’ll probably hear one of these responses the vast majority 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 from your response vocabulary! None 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.”

I jokingly said that because I’d set up a recurring task to remind me to call him at the beginning of each month. It was almost effortless for me to do this but it meant a lot to him.

I was fortunate he was a long-time friend because he responded graciously, telling me no matter what, it meant a lot to him when I reached out. I never forgot that exchange because it was an “ah-ha” moment for me about how to respond to “Thanks.”

How could I have responded differently to my friend? I should have said something like this; “Your friendship means a lot to me so I am happy to call 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 are one of our most important clients so we were 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.”


How will you respond next time someone thanks you?

  • “It would have killed an ordinary person but I was glad to risk it for you.” (People enjoy humor and this one usually gets a laugh!)

  • “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).”

 
How can you Influence PEOPLE? When you hear “Thank you” take the opportunity to engage people in ways that make them feel special. Doing so will also make them feel better about dealing with you. That added satisfaction will keep them coming back and increase the odds they’ll share your fame with their friends and business associates.
 
Thanks to Brian Ahearn for letting me share this excerpt from his new book Influence PEOPLE  and many thanks to you for reading Sunday Coffee.
 
If you’d like to respond to my “thanks” in the proper way or share your thoughts with me just visit my contact page.
 

Three Super-Valuable Phrases forBusiness and Life

By John Millen

Ask for what you want, and be prepared to get it.–– Maya Angelou

Growing up with a hard-working single mother and few resources, I learned early on that it never hurts to ask. I’ve continued that policy, and it’s been helpful in every aspect of life and business.

 
On the other side of the ledger, I will go out of my way to ask other people how I can help them. I’m also a big believer in random acts of kindness. The world has never needed those more than it does today.
 
Avoiding rejection
But I know I’m not the norm. Many of us feel uncomfortable asking for help or some kind of favor. We think we’ll be rejected. We’re concerned we are imposing.  So we don’t ask. 
 
This is sad because I bet you can think back to opportunities you missed because you failed to ask: the cool assignment that went to someone else; the client you failed to win; or even the love that passed you by.
 
We shouldn’t be afraid to ask because people like to help other people. It’s a fact. It can make us feel good. Research says we get a hit of dopamine, the pleasure hormone, in our brain’s reward center by helping others.  
 
In any case, here are three phrases that will increase the likelihood you’ll get what you ask for.
 
1) “But you are free”
It would seem obvious that when you make a request of people, they have the right to decline. But something interesting happens when you say out loud that they, of course, can pass on your request. 
 
Long-term research has shown that people are almost twice as likely to do what you request if you add a phrase like, “but you are free” (BYAF) not to do that favor. The specific words are not important, it’s the acknowledgment that they have freedom of choice.
 
There are different theories about why this phrase works, but the evidence is clear. You can learn more by reading this interview with Dr. Christopher Carpenter, a researcher and professor at Western Illinois University, who reviewed forty-two studies on the BYAF effect.
 
I recommend you try using this phrase, or something similar. But feel free not to try it. 


2) “Because”
When you request a favor of someone, research shows you will be significantly more successful if you provide a reason for the request. This, again, would seem obvious, but as Dr. Robert Cialdini notes in his landmark book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, you will be substantially more successful if you use the word “because” with your request. 
 
Citing the work of Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer, Cialdini writes of experiments where a person would ask to cut the line to use a copy machine. The simple request using the word “because” resulted in more than 90 percent acceptance, while a request without the word was granted 60 percent of the time.
 
Here are the requests:
 
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?  (60 percent acceptance)
 
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?  (94 percent acceptance)
 
They added this question to make sure it was not the “rush” that caused compliance:
 
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?  (93 percent acceptance)
 
Cialdini says the word “because” triggers our “automatic compliance response” as human beings. Hearing the word makes us automatically want to say “yes.” This, of course, does not apply to all situations, especially higher-stakes decisions.
 
I recommend against saying, “Would you promote me to vice president because I have great leadership ability?” 


3) “What questions do you have for me?”
Have you ever stood in front of a group when you finished your presentation and asked, “Do you have any questions?” Did you stand there for what seemed like an hour? Did you hear crickets? Did you say, uncomfortably, “Well, okay, I guess I covered everything.”
 
There’s something about hearing the phrase, “Do you have any questions” that seems to feel uninviting. Even people who have questions will look around at others and wonder if they’re imposing by asking a question. It’s weird.
 
Try this instead: “What questions do you have for me?” I started using this phrase about a year ago, and it works about 80 percent of the time, much more than the status quo approach. 
 
I ran across this approach in a small book titled, Exactly What to Say, The Magic Words for Influence and ImpactIt’s a simple read with twenty-three phrases focused mainly on successful sales but applicable in life since, as I always say, life is sales.
 
If you find any of those approaches interesting, I suggest you choose one and try it for thirty days because I believe you’ll see great results. But you are free to choose your own approach.
 
Now, what questions do you have for me? Just hit visit my contact page and we can talk.
 
John

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