The Surprising Power of “Thank You, Because”

Second CityWe’ve all been stuck there: the meeting full of yeses that quickly careens out of control because no one puts the brakes on an unproductive train of thought. It’s nearly as bad as the meeting that never gets off the ground amid a flurry of nos.

In an interactive session, adjunct associate professor of behavioral science Heather M. Caruso and The Second City’s Anne Libera suggested a third way: use the phrase “Thank you, because . . .” In other words, acknowledge something of value within someone’s idea or perspective, even if you don’t agree.

Caruso is executive director of Booth’s Center for Decision Research, which has partnered with Chicago’s legendary The Second City comedy theater to create the Second Science Project. The SSP intersects behavioral science with improvisational practice to cultivate the behavioral insights and interpersonal skills needed in today’s workplace.

The new evidence-driven collaboration seeks to help people not only understand, but practice adapting their own behavior to accommodate how people improvise their everyday responses to the world. 

During their presentation, Caruso and Libera had conference attendees buzzing with excited chatter as the pair led a series of exercises illustrating their points. Attendees shared ideas in small groups, improvising conversations around a theme as a way to test out these communication techniques for themselves.

The “thank you” in “Thank you, because . . .” is crucial, Caruso said. A growing body of research suggests that niceties can lead to better collaboration and more prosocial behavior. Simple gratitude can open up lines of communication, and we feel more valued and trusted when someone thanks us.

The “because” is just as important. Saying “because” gets people thinking about the “why” and encourages people to really listen to each other in order to respond appropriately. It also makes it less likely that someone will interpret your criticism as a personal insult, Caruso and Libera said.

Caruso and Libera spoke at Booth Women Connect Conference 2017, organized by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The annual event brought together more than 1,000 professionals for an extraordinary day of bold ideas, spirited discussion, practical insights, and impactful networking. Join us for this year’s conference on October 12, 2018. 

—By LeeAnn Shelton 

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