On occasion you may have an opportunity to meet with people in positions of “power”. Perhaps in an interview, or you may meet a business leader, or celebrity or politician. One of the first things people do is to remind that person of their respect and deference to their stature. These are the most common ones:
“Thank you so much for meeting with me.”
“I know you’re busy.”
“I really appreciate your time.”
“I won’t keep you any longer.”
“It’s so kind of you to squeeze me into your schedule.”
You’ve either heard or said these many times before. They sound polite and appreciative. On the surface, there’s little wrong with such pleasantries.
This is a mistake. It’s well intentioned, and usually you’ll never hear any criticism for saying it. But it’s flawed for a number of reasons:
It tells the person that their time is more valuable than your time. A truly wealthy and generous person will never value their time above another person. It’s a fundamental right: we’re all citizens of the planet and we all deserve basic rights. Time and comfort are two of them. While that person may have a certain “height” in a social or political ladder, they are a person just like you
If you value the person’s time, thanking them for it is a fairly useless gesture beyond politeness.
So what should you do if someone has been generous with their time and you feel indebted? Just ask them a simple and wonderful question:
“I appreciate this. What may I do for you?”
You will get a wide variety of responses. You may be asked:
“pay it forward”
“help me with a project”
“give me your advice or feedback”
What’s great about this question is that you get the opportunity to BALANCE the power difference. And rather than guess, you put the other person in the driver’s seat. They decide how they want you to repay the favor. And that’s the best way, for you may have it completely wrong.
It’s normal to be uncomfortable taking more than you’re giving. People feel they’re not in a position to give equally back. But a profuse “thank you” isn’t as useful as asking what you can do.