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When Is “You’re welcome” Called For?

Q. Business email situation -- I let my client know I have completed a task; they email back a thank you; do I email them a "you're welcome?" or is enough enough already?

S. B., Burlington, VT

A. The answer to your question is nuanced and definitely a gray area. What you should do is determine if a “You’re welcome” is called for. In a conversation, "You're welcome" is the correct response to a "Thank you." Now, think of your email as a conversation. Ask yourself if the “Thank you” you received terminates the conversation, conveying "Roger that - over and out." If it does, then a “You’re welcome” or any other response isn’t needed. On the other hand, if the “Thank you” is intended to show appreciation, then, just as in a conversation, respond with a "You're welcome."

In your case tone of voice matters and you can hear tone of voice even in someone’s writing. That’s how you’ll know if their “Thank you” is simply acknowledging your task being completed or if they are genuinely appreciating what you have done for them. If the rest of their message speaks positively (glowingly) of the work and effort you did, then that’s appreciation and deserves your “You’re welcome.” But if instead their “Thank you” is a matter of fact acknowledgment that you completed the task, then the “You’re welcome” is superfluous.

With that in mind, a better way to think of the situation is obligation versus opportunity. This is a client we’re talking about here. You have a perfect opportunity to reach out to that client and let him know how much you appreciate his business. So, the “You’re welcome” may not be required, but it sure is a great opportunity. Thinking of it that way makes the decision easy.

Surprisingly, “Please,” “Thank you,” and “You’re welcome” are words that are not used enough in business. Yet they help create a positive work environment and are a great way to show appreciation of employees and colleagues. That said, it is important any compliment is deserved and is offered sincerely.

“Please” softens a demand by making it an ask. Most people would rather have someone ask them to do something than have someone demand it of them.

“Thank you” is your way of expressing appreciation rather than simply expecting someone to do something. I think people like to be appreciated for their efforts rather than having them taken for granted.

“You’re welcome” is way under used. How often have you heard someone say “Thank you” in reply when a person has said “Thank you” to them? It’s almost like the second person is trying to trump the first person’s “Thank you.” The best reply is “You’re welcome” because it acknowledges the “Thank you.”

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