Post by Tirumalai Kamala:

How do we respond when someone thanks us? “You’re welcome”, “No problem”, “No worries”, “It was nothing”, “de nada”, “Don’t mention it”, “It’s ok”, “Sure”, “Of course”, “Anytime”, “My pleasure”. A wide variety of responses. Do they convey the same message? Should we use them inter-changeably? No, they don’t convey the same message and we shouldn’t use them unthinkingly and inter-changeably. Here’s why.

Many of these responses leave much to be desired. “You’re welcome” is patronizing, “No problem”, “No worries” are denials of negative. “It was nothing” and “de nada” downplay our action. What else do “No problem”, “No worries”, “it was nothing”, “de nada”, “Don’t mention it”, “It’s ok” have in common? They all suggest that our sense of discomfort at being thanked is foremost on our mind.

Veering between condescension and discomfort, these standard responses suggest that being thanked places us in a quandary. What does this predicament consist of? As it turns out, responding appropriately to being thanked is quite a complicated task, namely, to respond positively without being patronizing and yet retain agency. That’s a tall order!

“Anytime” and “My pleasure” serve all three purposes. They’re positive and unpretentious, and enable us to meet the thanker half-way. Not too pushy nor too diffident.  With  “Anytime” and “My pleasure”, we don’t create the disingenuous hierarchy implied by “You’re welcome”, the thanker the supplicant obligated by the charity of the one being thanked. With  “Anytime” and “My pleasure”, neither do we allow our discomfort at being thanked take the upper hand by downplaying our action as though somehow we didn’t deserve to be thanked in the first place. I’m ambivalent about “Of course”. Like “Sure”, it’s ambiguous. As for “Sure”, I have no idea what this implies. Does it mean “Sure” as in “Sure, I’m happy to help you” or does it mean “Sure” as in “Sure, I accept your thanks”? Too cryptic! I’d steer clear of “Sure”!

How do we respond to being thanked, patronizingly, uncomfortably or sincerely?