How Do You Reply to a Thank You?

I thank people often, because people help me all the time. People carry things for me. They might help me over uneven ground/steps. In the grocery store, I often have to ask for help to reach the top shelves. Sigh. I have a bad case of TDS (too darn short).

I say, “Thank you,” or “I appreciate you for (this thing you did for me), and here’s how it helped me.”

I too often hear, “No problem.” Rarely do I hear “You are welcome.”

Hey, you nice people: It might be no problem, and you might start appreciating yourselves!

When I say, “No problem,” I downplay my role. I step back from other people’s thanks and appreciations. That action downplays the value of my role to the other person.

When I say, “Thank you,” I accept that I provided you a beneficial service or support. I acknowledge that I provided value to you.

If you don’t acknowledge my thanks in a way that shows that you realize you provided me value, what does that say about both of us? Here’s how I might interpret your not-you’re welcome response:

  • You helped me out of obligation, not out of desire. I feel as if I pushed you to help me. I didn’t make it an option for you.
  • You didn’t realize the value you provided me. I wasn’t clear to you.
  • I feel as if I imposed on you.

These (and maybe you have other reactions) mean that I might be more reluctant to ask for help the next time. I don’t know what you think :-)

I know that sometimes, I feel a “no problem” as a blow to my self-esteem. It’s not a problem for the other person. It is for me, which is why I asked for help. Why can’t the other person acknowledge my trouble and help me feel better about myself? Maybe that’s too much to ask?

I am sure the people who say, “No problem,” mean it more as:

  • I’m happy to help
  • I can help you
  • It’s not a problem for me, even if it is for you

I don’t think too many people think, “Thanks for asking me to help.” I wish they would :-)

We all need help. Many of us like to offer help. We all need a little help sometimes, not only from our friends.

Dear adaptable problem solvers, that is the question this week: How do you reply to a thank you?

P.S. I might be having trouble with comments. If you don’t see your comment, or you can’t add a comment, please email me, jr at jrothman dot com. Thanks. I am debugging this problem.

17 thoughts on “How Do You Reply to a Thank You?”

  1. Okay, kinda cheating here Johanna, since I do get your posts emailed and I quite often share them on my Facebook since I find them very thought provoking, so I’m being lazy and commenting my “add on” commentary on my facebook post (ps: don’t take overthinker as offensive.. only the best people are overthinkers lol):

    Interesting question… I have, in fact, thought about the “no problem” response to a “thank you”.. For me, it has always felt, kinda as Johanna alludes to.. flippant? Cavalier? I probably most often stick to a standard “You’re welcome” but it is an interesting question.. and it is interesting to see the thought process involved in the person receiving the reply. (I thought I was the only overthinker that actually considered that a “no problem” might offend someone lol)

    1. HI Dawn, thank you for the sharing! (I don’t think we’re connected on FB, because I don’t see any notifications that you share. Of course, FB might not be showing me. I will investigate.)

      I don’t think you’re overthinking. But, that might be from someone who thinks a lot :-)

  2. I think for many of us (myself included), the answer to “thank you” is a filler word…in cases like “keeping the door open for someone that holds a cup of hot tea, laptop, etc etc”, the answer to “thank you” might be automated, a shortcut answer/reaction in our brain.

    I use ” no problem” a lot.
    1. because of the automated reaction to a buzz word.
    2. maybe due to English not being my first language and for an unknown reason that phrase stuck as the right one in my head…

    Having said that, if someone did something of considerable size for me, I guess this triggers the mechanism of actual thought to respond and then I would probably go for “you are welcome” or other similar – thought-through expressions with on top a sincere facial expression potentially.


    1. Hi Maria, hmm. What you think might be of “considerable size” for you might be quite different for me. Here’s an example. I cannot reach the top shelf in the supermarket. Of course, the stuff I want is on the top shelf much of the time. I ask someone in the market to help me.

      Because this other person is taller (even just by a couple of inches) than I am, it’s not a considerable thing for that person. But for me? Wow, it’s huge. It makes the difference between quickly getting what I need and being frustrated about the whole shopping experience. I have to admit, I have also asked people who are not employees. And, they find it takes a couple of seconds for them to help me (not big for them), and it’s a huge deal for me.

      I had not thought about “you’re welcome” as a filler word. I don’t think of it like that. And, I can see your point. Thanks.

      1. Hi Johanna,

        You are absolutely right and i think that this is the real “problem”. The different perspectives that are the blockers in meaningful appreciation. ?

        I’ve been thinking and sometimes i feel that i would say something like “no problem” or “it’s nothing ” when i dont want to make the other person feel like they got me somehow out of my way for doing whatever they are thanking me for. So although acknowledging the thank you might be very important to some, there are people ( less confident in nature (like myself sometimes)) that would like to know they did not disturb the other person by asking/ causing them to provide help.

        Maybe the best of both worlds would be to say ” you are welcome, it was not a problem” ?

        Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

        1. Hi Maria, I would modify your statement to:

          “You are welcome and it wasn’t a problem for me.” I might add, “Glad I could help.”

          Maybe something like that… I published a post about how people feel about being honored yesterday. It’s the feelings about the helping!

  3. My default is “Oh, sure,” but I try hard to make myself say, “You’re welcome.” There really is something about a good “You’re welcome” that creates warmth through acknowledging both the effort I expended and the value the other person received.

    But “Oh, sure,” escapes my lips a lot because I feel uncomfortable having my effort honored. Even for something as simple as reaching something on a top supermarket shelf for someone. I’m 6 feet tall; I get asked to do this often enough.

    1. Jim, that discomfort is real. I totally understand. I sometimes feel uncomfortable asking for help. You are right about the warmth and acknowledgment.

      I guess I should write a post about how we feel about actions that honor us. I’ll be thinking about that.

  4. Canadians are more likely to say “You are welcome”, Americans often say “No problem” and Australians prefer “No worries, mate..”. For all of us its mostly a reflex remark.

    I know that I react to the tone more than the words. How it is said makes all the difference to me. It can be delivered with a smile or a snarl.

  5. Hi Johanna,

    thank you for this blogpost
    I have a similar ( stronger) reaction to
    “it’s nothing”.

    On most days that will make me stop and reply to the people “it was not nothing for me.”

    and yes some reply it is an automatic reply. And I find that an insult. I don’t thank people automatic. When I say thank you, it’s because I’m grateful.

    + I think it’s similar between teams and companies.

    For me one of the starting points of stimulating collaboration between teams is making people thank each other and accept a thank you and let it enter.


    1. HI Yves, yes! You captured it perfectly. While it might not be a big deal, it was definitely not “nothing.”

      Ah, lovely idea about helping people thank each other, accept it, and letting it enter into their being.

  6. Pingback: How Do You Feel When Others Honor You? – Create An Adaptable Life

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