'No problem' or 'my pleasure'? Why the way you say 'you're welcome' matters

The importance of gratitude — feeling and displaying an authentic sense of thankfulness — cannot be overstated in healthcare. Showing thanks is important in all types of interactions in the hospital setting, such as between the leadership and staff and between staff and patients. But little attention is paid to the right way of saying "you're welcome."

Every language has its own way of responding to "thank you," Paul Levy, former president and CEO of Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center pointed out in a recent blog post. In Spanish, people say "de nada," or, "it's nothing." In English, a common response is "no problem," or "any time." In Australia, it's "no worries."

In other environments and situations, there may not be a wrong answer to "thank you," but in the hospital, there is. Showing gratitude is imperative in healthcare, and so is the way you accept it.

Hospital patients and their families are often anxious, scared and probably a little uncomfortable. Any time a hospital worker — whether they are the hospital CEO, their physician, nurse or a janitor — does something nice for a patient or family member, that person is truly grateful, according to Mr. Levy. Responding to their gratitude with a casual "no problem" or "it's nothing" belittles and devalues it.

Instead, a better response is "it's my pleasure," or "I'm so happy I could help." These forms of "you're welcome" show you truly understand their appreciation.

Mr. Levy said after training himself to respond to patients and their visitors in this way, people were eager to keep talking, compared to the conversation-stopping effect of the "it's nothing" response.

"I was able to learn so much more about people's fears, expectations, experiences, and hopes and then help translate those into improvements in the clinical environment," he wrote.

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