The Power of a Canned Response

Canned Response


How does it feel when someone pays you a compliment?

How about when you hear a staff member saying an inappropriate joke?



For me, these used to be very uncomfortable situations.

Uncomfortable situations are by definition uncomfortable, but the interesting thing is that we face many of the same types of uncomfortable situations over and over again, and this opens the door for a canned response.

What is a canned response?

A canned response is a script (a few simple sentences) that you craft ahead of time in anticipation of a specific uncomfortable situation. When you find yourself in that uncomfortable situation, you have something with which to respond — your canned response. Use it a few times, and your brain will begin to go on autopilot, and your month will simply begin speaking your canned response. It comes out sounding great, and it is delivered calmly and smoothly.

If you’re math-oriented, here it is in formula format.

Uncomfortable Situation + Canned Response = Less Discomfort

A Real-World Situation

Accepting compliments used to be really hard for me. When someone paid me a compliment, it was embarrassing and uncomfortable, but then I created a canned response for compliments, and accepting them started becoming a lot more comfortable. I even started to enjoy receiving them (go figure).

My canned response for compliments is the following: “Wow! Thank you. That’s very flattering. I really appreciate it.” Any time I get a compliment, my brain automatically triggers my canned response for compliments, and I just start saying it.

Here’s how it worked for me recently while I was attending a conference and got a compliment.

After a table discussion, a colleague came up to me and said (paraphrased): ‘Hey! Thank you for your comments. I really appreciated how you brought the emotional component into the discussion about the interaction with the customer.”

Proud but embarrassed — she had interrupted a conversation I was having with a senior member of our company who overheard her — I had two options for my response:

1) My natural reaction: (red-faced) “Um…uh…um, it was…um…nothing.” [If this sounds like you, check out my post Killing the Dumb Um.]

2) Relying on my canned response.

Obviously, I went with #2, and here’s how it played out.

(smiling and maybe even making  a little eye contact) “Wow! Thank you. That is very flattering. I really appreciate it.”

I left the conversation feeling good. Accepting compliments feels good; playing them off does not, and you know what? I’ll bet she left the conversation feeling good too. Her kind words were accepted in a non-embarrassing way, and she likely felt the joy of giving a compliment that was well-received.

Think it works? Leave me a compliment on this post, and let’s see how well I do. <wry smile>

Oh…wait. One more thing. Not buying the whole idea of having a prepared response for things? Check out one of my favorite quotes. It’s from Jesse Liberty in his 6 Steps to Presentations that Don’t Suck. Here it is: “Practice. Nothing is as good as well practiced spontaneity!”


Share on LinkedInShare on TwitterShare via email+1Share on Facebook


  1. Judy Griffin says:

    Great advice, John, and very crisply written! I especially liked your real-world example.