When someone says “thank you” to me, my response is usually “you’re welcome.”
It’s automatic. It’s learned. And, it’s something I hadn’t thought too much about - until I participated in an “ambassador” training for a volunteer position a few months ago.
Our role as “ambassadors” was to welcome people from around the world to Chicago. And, to do so with a warm and friendly smile – done in the spirit of Chicago, the Midwest and the US.
To help prepare us for our roles, each prospective “ambassador” was asked to participate in a training session conducted by a woman who worked in the hospitality industry for more than 25 years. During the training session, she shared insight into the best ways for us to welcome our guests to Chicago - many of the very same things she put into practice as a hotel concierge.
I was surprised at the one thing that stuck out to me during the training sessions – that there are other, perhaps even better or more polite ways to say “you’re welcome.”
Yes, according to our trainer, "with pleasure" or “it's my pleasure” can be preferred options. And, I have to say, that I tend to use it as much as possible - much more frequently than my standard “you’re welcome.”
“It's my pleasure” instead of "You're welcome"
As I’ve learned since my training session, “it’s my pleasure” is a phrase that makes the sentiment behind your actions ring true.
Yes, those simple words can convey your pleasure in doing something for others.
And, to be honest, it can make you stand apart from others because most of us don’t use or hear it too often these days.
In a world where, in English, you typically only hear "sure" or “you’re welcome,” an exceedingly polite “it's my pleasure” stands out and shines bright within our conversations with others.
The reality is that the polite phrase typically may only be overhead at five-star hotels. But, to me, it’s worthy of extending its usage to everyday interactions to make an even greater, more meaningful impact.
And, I’m not the only one that feels that way.
A recent Fast Company article shared Chick-fil-A’s “recipe for customer service,” noting that its employees never say, “You’re welcome,” “Glad to help,” or “Come back and see us.”
Instead, at the end of a transaction, you’ll always hear, “My pleasure.”
The use of the phrase was inspired by the same sentiments you’d hear at a “much fancier and expensive establishment, like Ritz Carlton” – not a fast food restaurant.
To me, it’s absolutely true that words can elevate an experience and leave an everlasting impression.
But, this really isn’t anything new to many people around the world, who deliberately choose which way to say “you’re welcome” or other niceties each and every day.
10 ways to say "you're welcome" in English
Based on who you ask, there are at least 10 ways to say “you’re welcome” in English.
In addition to saying my preferred, “It was my pleasure,” you also can say “Not a problem,” “Anytime,” “Don’t mention it,” “you got it,” or “sure,” among others.
But, the use of each one is up to you. There aren’t any linguistic “rules” around which one to use based on if you’re talking to a friend or a “stranger,” or someone who’s younger or older.
The same can’t be said of other languages like French or German.
Ways to say "you're welcome" in French and German
No matter the language, “You’re welcome” is often said in response to someone saying “Thank you.” And, the number of ways we have to say “Thank you” can sometimes correlate with number of ways to say “You’re welcome” in that given language.
For example, as chronicled by Omniglot (the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages), there are at least seven ways to say “Thank you” in English, including “Thank you very much,” “Thank you kindly,” “Many thanks,” “Cheers,” and “Ta” (used in northern England). So, it’s not surprising that the encyclopedia lists at least eight ways to say “You’re welcome” to help correspond as appropriate.
Interestingly, the encyclopedia lists five ways to say “You’re welcome” in French. But, only two different ways to say “Thank you” – “Merci” and “Merci beaucoup.”
In French, the common “De rien,” which can be translated as “it’s nothing,” is often used in informal situations. For example, you may say “De rien” when someone holds the door open for you or picks something up for you.
Another informal way to say “You’re Welcome” in French is “Il n’y a pas de quoi” or “pas de quoi,” which can be translated as “Don’t mention it.” According to LovetoKnow.com, it’s often among friends and family while “De rien” is more commonly used when responding to “strangers.”
In French, “Avec plaisir” is the phrase most similar to “It was my pleasure.” The phrase can be translated as “with pleasure,” and is often used when someone thanks you for a gift.
But, according to LovetoKnow.com, the most heartfelt way of telling someone “You’re welcome,” is to say “Je vous en prie” or “Je t’en prie,” which can be translated as “I beg of you.” The phrases, in both the polite and informal forms, “signals that the speaker really understands that the other person is truly thankful and that he or she is truly welcome."
Polite and informal ways of saying “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” are also used in when speaking German.
According to About.com, in Germany, there is a greater emphasis on formalities and in speaking to people in die Hoflichkeitsform, which means addressing people you don’t know with “Sie” and family and close friends with “Du.”
In German, a more informal way of saying “You’re welcome” is “Bitte” while the more formal way is to say “Bitteschon” or “Bitte sehr.”
Interestingly, About.com lists “Gern geschehen” (It was my pleasure) as being both a formal and “less formal” way to say “You’re welcome” in German.
Passing on good manners to my sons
The other day, I asked my sons how they respond to when someone says, “Thank you,” to them in English. They both said, “You’re welcome,” without a second thought.
But, then I asked them how they’d respond in French. And, they said pretty much the same thing – “De rien.”
The more informal “De rien” is what my sons learned as the polite response to “Thank you” when they started learning French – and they still use it today without exception.
And, so, just as I am trying to say “It was my pleasure” on a more frequent basis. I’m trying to do the same with my sons – in both English and French. And, maybe German next.
Because, to me, as a parent, one of our primary roles is to instill good manners in our children. So, why not help them stand out and show their appreciation of others in an even grander way? And, the best way to do so is by leading by example.
So, now, when we discuss how to address their school’s principal, a friend’s parents or a new friend, we’ll practice the various ways to say “You’re welcome” and other niceties in the appropriate language.
And, I’ll do it with pleasure and gratitude each and every time.
How many ways can you say “you’re welcome” in your language(s)? How does that number correspond to the different ways to say “thank you?” What are the different rules for using “polite” versions of "Thank You" or "You're welcome" with others? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
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