If you watch live news shows where people get interviewed, you may have noticed that most of them don’t know how to answer when somebody says, “Thank you.”
When an interview ends, the moderator will usually say something like: “Secretary Auchterturra, thank you very much for your time this morning.” Almost always, the good Secretary will pause, as if “thrown” by the comment, and then reply almost timidly: “Thank you.”
There are times when such a reply is called for. You would use it if someone gave you a vintage Corvette that they no longer wanted, and after you loaded it onto your truck they said: “Thank you for coming by and getting the Corvette.”
This is a clear case of the giver being way too gracious, and though you might reply with: “You’re welcome,” most people would consider it fitting if your benefactor reneged on his offer, or at least lamented his poor judgment in handing over his collectible sports car to an ungrateful imbecilic.
The appropriate reply is: “No, thank you!” and to emphasize “you,” to acknowledge your understanding that you have done this person no favor, and that it is they who are doing one for you.
The other time it’s appropriate is if you’re someone who is never asked for their opinion, or to give their side of the story — especially if wrongly accused. After going over the perfectly legitimate reason(s) why you were found walking naked through Grand Central Station at four A.M., and the interviewer thanks you for clearing things up, the only appropriate way to answer is to say, “No, thank you!”
In all other cases, the correct, well-mannered way to respond to someone saying, “Thank you,” is: “You’re welcome,” or something like it.
You might be thinking: Why isn’t it okay for anyone to say “Thank you” for being interviewed? Couldn’t it be said that they might also appreciate being given a chance to speak their mind, share their thoughts, show everyone how smart they are, etc.? It is, but not when you’re getting thanked at the end of the interview.
If interviewees have a great need to show appreciation, it should be worked into the interview itself. After the first question, they could say: “I am so happy you’ve asked me here to explain the benefits of again allowing cigar smoking on airplanes,” or whatever topic or cause you’ve been invited to comment upon.
People who are paid to answer questions or offer opinions should avoid thanking their inquisitors, even though this is the sweetest of gigs. When the Fox News producer calls and offers to pay you to go on air and explain why the pulse rates of Republican men increase when Sarah Palin wears a red leather mini-dress, you would be crazy not to emphatically thank whoever it was who thought to call you.
But after you dazzle everyone with your articulate explanation of RMRTRLDP (Republican Male Response to Red Leather Dress Psychosis), you will appear to be a little more credible and professional if you graciously say, “You’re welcome,” when thanked for such enlightenment.
The most confounding of unjustified thankers are famous or important people whose opinions are highly valued and often sought. When interviewers thank these people, it’s because they really appreciate their showing up. Usually they’re not getting paid, and are there because they genuinely believe their two cents might be of some benefit to some person, place or thing.
All have fielded the interview-ending “thank yous” before, but still seem unprepared. I have watched current and former presidents and vice-presidents fumble for an reply, as though they’d been asked to name and spell all the Balkan Territories. Secretaries of state, defense attorneys, murder suspects, congressmen and women, aldermen, sex offenders, political bloviators, leading men and ladies, dictators, despots and royalty, all similarly bumbling when faced with the simple social grace of being thanked for doing something.
It should not be this way and the solution is easy: Settle on something that is always offered when someone says: “Thank you.” For me, those words are: “You’re welcome.” For those who want to get creative, try: “My pleasure,” or, “Happy to.” It’s even okay to add something like: “I appreciate your asking me about this,” as long as it comes afterwards.
Except as noted, the only reply to “Thank you,” that makes a person look like an ill-prepared, dullard is: “Thank you.”