It seems obvious. Someone says “thank you”. You say “You’re welcome”. It’s a simple ritual that helps prop up our faltering social structure. But it gets annoying to say “you’re welcome” a hundred times a day when you interact with a lot of people. I try to alternate my variations of this staple according to how formal or casual the situation and who I’m talking with. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Someone says thank you.
2. You respond:
- “You’re welcome” – this works anywhere at any time
- “Happy to help” – This works well in less formal situations and especially where you’ve actually helped someone.
- “My pleasure” – This works in both formal and informal situations. Just be sure you’ve done something that can actually be a pleasure, like helping a little old lady cross the street, not like helping someone fight off a rabid chipmunk.
- “Not at all” – I like this one, but it seems a little archaic. Best used when you did a little something that didn’t seriously inconvenience you.
- “It was nothing” – This is like “not at all”. It’s appropriate in informal situations and when your action really was a slight effort.
- “Don’t mention it” – This one’s interesting but seems a little archaic. I guess some people can get away with this (perhaps chimney sweeps in 19th century England). It seems harmless enough, if a little awkward.
- “Anytime” – I really like this one. For informal situations, this seems to just hit the spot. You’re basically saying (in one word) that you were happy to help and that you welcome the chance to repeat the favor.
- “Thank you!” – This is the classic return thank you, as in “Thank you! … No Thank you!”. This is a good one for informal situations, especially around someone you like, showing that you actually appreciate being able to help the other person.
- “Sure” – For very informal situations, this is a nice way of acknowledging a thank you. I use this mostly in instant messaging.
- “No problem” – This one seems inappropriate. Saying that something you did wasn’t a problem seems at best an indirect and unnecessarily neutral response to a thank you. I suppose it might be appropriate if you were annoyed by having to do the favor, but want to be polite and let the person know that you don’t resent it.
- “NP or No Prob” – Same as the non-abbreviated version above, but only appropriate in communications where abbreviations are normal, such as in instant messaging.
These are just my opinions, but I hope they help you reflect a little on how to best communicate your acknowledgment of a thank you. These seem insignificant, but in a time of declining civility, every little bit counts.