Using “Thank-You” To Get What You Want

Most of us like to be thanked, especially when the sentiment is sincere. For that reason, saying “thank-you” is one of the most powerful phrases in any language.

Upon meeting you, a job candidate thanks you for considering him for the position. Your boss thanks you in a staff meeting for the project you are about to undertake. A sign in your gym thanks members for placing used towels in the hamper.

Today, we share these insights into the power of saying thank-you in advance to get what you want from Kate Zabriskie, president of Business Training Works, Inc.

Why A Thank-You In Advance Works

Zabriskie says that thanking people in advance works for a several reasons. The first has to do with a sense of obligation many people feel to reciprocate after they’ve received something.

The second explanation for the technique’s effectiveness is because people want to conform to a positive image of themselves. In other words, “I’m going to act like a good worker because I am a good worker.”

A third explanation for the power of this method has to do with instruction. Often, we assume people intuitively know what they are supposed to do. Guess what? Many don’t. They’ve forgotten, they’re preoccupied or they’re simply not thinking. Offered in the right way, many people will follow a suggested course of action, because it’s the path of least resistance.

The Structure Of Saying Thank-You In Advance

To plan an advanced thank-you, use the following framework:

1. Think about the desired result. “I want my employees to show up on time.”

2. Identify the type of people who typically demonstrate that behavior. “Responsible and accountable people show up on time.”

3. Craft a statement that identifies the people you are addressing as that group, and be specific about the result you want to see. For example: “I appreciate the fact that I have such a dedicated team. I want to thank you in advance for giving 110 percent this week. The hours during this busy season are demanding, and it takes a true group of professionals to act upbeat and engaged with every visitor. This is why we hired you.”

Tips and Cautions:

1. Thanking people for good behavior should be done before you’ve observed anything particularly egregious. For example, imagine a chaotic scene in a retail environment where customers are pushing and shoving each other. It’s more difficult to thank them into a reverse course after they’ve gone wild. However, a little advanced gratitude offered earlier could have helped avoid mayhem.

2. Thanking people is not a substitute for confronting inappropriate behavior. For example, if an employee comes to work dressed improperly, you can’t thank your way around addressing the problem. However, you can use a thank you as part of the corrective conversation. “Mary, I appreciate you listening to me this morning, and I want to thank you in advance for taking the conversation seriously. I know you have what it takes to represent our company well. I look forward to seeing you be successful here.”

3. Thanking people for everything dilutes the method’s effectiveness. “Bill, I want to thank you for coming in on time today. I know how important punctuality is to you, so thank you for parking in the employee lot and not taking a visitor’s space.” Too much of that, and Bill is going to think you’ve got a screw or two loose. Worse still, he’s not going to believe a word you say.

Perfecting the science and art of the advanced thank-you takes time but it can be an important tool of influence.

PCT wants to thank you in advance for checking your inbox tomorrow for the next issue.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.

Image courtesy of google image search.

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