Tag Archives: Robert Cialdini

Why You Shouldn’t Say “You’re Welcome”

by Adam Grant –

The script is so deeply ingrained that you don’t even need to think about it. When you do a favor, and someone says “thank you,” the automatic response is “you’re welcome.” It’s a basic rule of politeness, and it signals that you accept the expression of gratitude—or that you were happy to help.

But according to one leading psychologist, this isn’t the best choice of words. After four decades of studying persuasion, Influence author Robert Cialdini has come to see “you’re welcome” as a missed opportunity. “There is a moment of power that we are all afforded as soon as someone has said ‘thank you,’” Cialdini explains. To capitalize on this power, he recommends an unconventional reply:

“I know you’d do the same for me.”

There are at least three potential advantages of this response. First, it conveys that we have the type of relationship where we can ask each other for favors and help each other without keeping score. Second, it communicates confidence that you’re the kind of person who’s willing to help others. Third, it activates the norm of reciprocity, making sure that you feel obligated to pay the favor back in the future.

As Guy Kawasaki writes in Enchantment, “Cialdini’s phrase tells the person who received your favor that someday you may need help, too, and it also signals to the person that you believe she is honorable and someone who will reciprocate. If this is the spirit in which you’re saying it, your response is far more enchanting than the perfunctory ‘You’re welcome.’ ”

Although the logic is compelling, and I’m a longtime admirer of Cialdini’s work, I’ve never felt comfortable saying this phrase out loud. At first I thought I was too attached to politeness rules. How could I leave a “thank you” just hanging in the air without the proper acknowledgment? Awkward.

That explanation fell apart, though, when I realized I could just combine politeness with Cialidni’s response: “You’re welcome—I was happy to do it. I know you’d do the same for me.”

It didn’t change my mind. The response still left a bad taste in my mouth. Eventually, I realized the problem was the subtle appeal to reciprocity. There’s nothing wrong with trading favors or asking others to repay the help you’ve given, but when I chose to help people, I wanted to do it without strings attached. I didn’t want to leave them feeling like they owed me. So I stuck with the familiar, banal “you’re welcome,” which was mildly dissatisfying. Why do we utter this strange phrase?

In English, it’s a relatively new arrival. Over the past century, “you’re welcome” has evolved to connote that it’s my pleasure to help you or “you are welcome to my help,” which we tend to say more directly in other languages like Spanish and French (“the pleasure is mine,” “it was nothing,” “no problem”). Is there a better alternative?

I stumbled upon an answer after meeting Adam Rifkin, a serial entrepreneur who was named Fortune’s best networker. He goes out of his way to help a staggering number of people, doing countless five-minute favors—making introductions, giving feedback, and recommending and recognizing others. After Rifkin does you a favor, it’s common for him to reach out and ask for your help in return.

At first, it seems like he’s just following the norm of reciprocity: since he helped you, you owe him. But there’s a twist: he doesn’t ask you to help him. Instead, he asks you to help him help someone else.

Rifkin is more concerned about people paying it forward than paying it back. In his view, every favor that he does is an opportunity to encourage other people to act more generously. That way, a broader range of people can benefit from his contributions.

After watching Rifkin in action, it dawned on me that Cialdini’s line could be adapted. Instead of “I know you’d do the same for me,” how about this response?

“I know you’ll do the same for someone else.”

Just like Cialdini’s reply, it affirms your character as a person who’s happy to be helpful. Unlike his version, it doesn’t deliver the implicit message that you’re indebted to me, and I’m waiting for you to repay it.

It’s just a sentence, but the underlying values have the potential to fundamentally change the way that people interact. In traditional direct reciprocity, people trade favors back and forth in pairs. In contrast, Rifkin’s approach is called generalized reciprocity. As described by political scientist Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone, “I’ll do this for you without expecting anything specific back from you, in the confident expectation that someone else will do something for me down the road.”

If you follow this approach, when you really need help, you have access to a broader range of potential givers. If you stick to direct reciprocity, you can only ask people you’ve helped in the past or might be able to help in the future. In generalized reciprocity, you can extend your request to a wider network: since you’ve given without strings attached, other people are more inclined to do the same. In fact, social scientists James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis have conducted experiments showingthat acts of giving often spread “up to three degrees of separation (from person to person to person).”

So next time someone expresses appreciation for your help, it might be worth stretching beyond politeness to ask them to pay it forward. I know you’ll do that for someone else.


Adam is the author of Give and TakeNew York Times and Wall Street Journalbestseller on how helping others drives our success. Follow him here by clicking the yellow FOLLOW above and on Twitter @AdamMGrant



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brand Marketing Through The Psychology Of Persuasion

images (2)Would you like to push your brand to the forefront of your market’s collective consciousness? Do you want your customers to be able to instantly recognize your business when they see your company logo? Do you wish that your audience could immediately recall your business’s slogan?

These goals define the core purpose of advertising your brand. Brand marketing is a way to separate your company from your competitors, much like a brand placed on cattle is used to distinguish one rancher’s animals from those owned by another. In many ways, your brand represents your business’s identity. It’s a component of your company’s story, a symbol that reminds your market about the experience of doing business with you. Pushing your brand to the front of your customer’s mind is a matter of increasing the number of times he or she is exposed to it.

Many years ago, a professor of psychology named Dr. Robert Cialdini authored a book titled “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” He described several principles that explain why people behave the way they do. Dr. Cialdini’s book quickly became a hit among advertisers and brand marketers for its insights into the consumer’s mind. Below, we’ll take a brief look at the 6 principles outlined in his book.


Cialdini explained that the act of giving something to someone creates a feeling of obligation on the part of the recipient. With that in mind, consider promotional items, such as customized stickers and t-shirts with your company name and logo imprinted on them. Giving these items to your customers may be all that is required to spur their use. Before long, you might see your logo prominently displayed on laptops, skateboards, cars, and on the backs of your audience.

Commitment And Consistency

People tend to behave in ways that are consistent with the image they have displayed to others. For example, a woman who prides herself on punctuality might go to great lengths to avoid being late for meetings. Similarly, a man who wants his friends to consider him honest will refrain from lying or withholding pertinent information.

By building on past commitments, brand marketers can influence their audiences to make larger commitments. For instance, consider a customer who has your company’s car magnet stuck to the inside of his vehicle’s window. This individual is likely to be more receptive to wearing a custom t-shirt displaying the same information than a person who has not made a prior commitment. Doing so implies consistency.

Social Proof

A basic human trait is to look to others for direction regarding what is appropriate behavior. If an individual sees other people taking a particular action, he begins to feel as if he should do so, as well.

This aspect of psychology can be a powerful tool for improving brand awareness.

Let’s return to the example of giving promotional items to customers. The more people who place custom stickers on their belongings, the greater the likelihood their peers will do the same. The more customers who wear t-shirts emblazoned with your company’s logo, the more inclined those who come into contact with them will be to mirror the behavior.

This can significantly boost the momentum and success of your brand marketing campaign.


In his book, Cialdini explains that people are more likely to listen to someone, and follow his or her directions, if they perceive that individual to be an authority. Studies have shown this to be true when people encounter doctors, lawyers, politicians, and others who seem to be “in charge” of a given situation.

The marketing value of this psychological trait can be observed in companies’ use of celebrities to promote their products. Even though a particular celebrity may have little expertise with the product in question – for example, Jamie Lee Curtis promoting Honda vehicles – people are inclined to listen to them. This is the reason celebrities are aggressively pursued by companies to sign product endorsement deals.


People are more receptive to the influence of those they like. A long-time friend is more persuasive than a stranger. This is one of the underlying principles of most network marketing programs. Participants are encouraged to promote products to their friends and family members in order to leverage their existing relationships.

In the context of brand marketing, companies can focus their efforts on winning over influencers, and turning them into fans. Those influencers may then go on to promote the companies to their own networks. The influencers’ friends are more likely to be persuaded through such word-of-mouth advertising than a formal marketing campaign.


A perception of scarcity will oftentimes prompt people to take an action they might otherwise have delayed. The reason is due to a fear of missing out on a coveted item or deal. An example would be a department store sale. Items temporarily marked down in price tend to sell more quickly because customers fear losing the chance to take advantage of a bargain.

Companies often exploit this psychological trait to hasten sales or increase sales volume. For example, prices may be slashed dramatically for a short period of time. Limited inventories may be revealed to communicate scarce supplies.

Dr. Cialdini’s principles of persuasion offer enormous value for small businesses trying to build awareness around their brands. Savvy companies with limited budgets can leverage the six insights above using custom printed t-shirts, stickers, car magnets, and other low-cost promotional items.

The author has spent the last 15 years working as a marketing and branding expert for major fortune 1000 companies. Currently he is working with in a cross promotional venture for promoting promotional products and accessories



Tags: , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: