Hello everyone and welcome to episode 88. Today we examine in-depth that odd expression of …. “Thank you for asking.”

In last week’s episode I talked about making a New Year’s resolution of interacting with people in such a way that they will send you a “thank you” note in writing.

That’s going to take some effort on your part because people rarely send thank you notes anymore. So for you to receive one, it will mean you’ve done something so meaningful for someone they can’t help but express their appreciation in writing. That’s a tall order, but still a worthy goal. As I said last week, it will bring out the best in us when we make it our goal for people to appreciate in writing what we’ve done for them.

Today, however, I want to give you a related relationship goal this is easier. It’s a listening goal that will be a quick win for you. The goal is to get people to say to you, “thank you for asking.”

A quick win listening goal

This expression, thank you for asking, is such an odd statement. Why are we prompted to thank someone for just asking us a question?

Answer: Because it’s uncommon. Most people are usually telling, not asking, and when they do ask, it’s for news or something to benefit them, not for any intrinsic purpose to simply get to know you as a person.

In a 90-minute listening talk at MC2, I gave this challenge at the end of the workshop, “make it your goad to get people to say ‘Thank you for Asking.’”

I don’t mean to elicit this response from the clerk at the gas station or the teller at your bank who greets you with, “Hi, how are you today?” and you say, “Fine.” And then you ask the clerk or teller how they’re doing and they respond back with “Fine. Thank you for asking.”

That’s just a polite courtesy, with not much meaning behind it.

(By the way, I may have said it before, but you know what “fine “ is, don’t you? Feelings Inside Not Expresses. F.I.N.E.)

So how do you do this? How do you ask someone a question that causes that person to respond with thank you for asking? You use the O.R.A principle.

The O.R.A. principal

It starts with Observing, followed by Remembering, then Asking. O.R.A.


Pay attention to what people say, and don’t say. Notice the body language. What do their eyes tell you? Notice the lip that starts to quiver, the knees that shake. The smile that comes across their face.

Pretend you’re a reporter or detective, and note as many details as possible. Notice any incongruities between their words and their actions.

Look for emotion. What do you think they are feeling?

People watch, Speculate about them.

What are they happy about? Sad about? Worried about? Look for the emotion. It’s how we connect with one another.

Game with our grandsons at their favorite pancake house. Imagine what the people are like in the next booth over. Or sitting in a Chick-fil-A near a window to the drive-through, and speculate about each driver who passes by

Above all, be curious.


Observing is about the present. Remembering is about the past, about prior observations

File observations in your memory bank

In meeting a friend or someone else, ask yourself, “What did we talk about last time we met? What were they concerned about? What was on their mind then?

Recreate a picture of your interaction with them from awhile ago

What decision were they facing?

What had time sensitivity to our last chat?

Praying for people helps you to remember what to ask them about.


Ask something about them. Don’t ask something that benefits you, ask something about them.

Remind them of your last or prior conversation, and pick up where you left off.

Be tentative, you can always be corrected. Picture yourself in their shoes

The “If they wanted me to know they’d tell me. I don’t want to be nosey.”

It’s a myth.

Be sensitive to time and place.

The result of practicing the ORA principle:

People will feel cared about, that someone would notice and remember, certainly from the past, but also something from the here and now.

I’ll give you an example: recently I shared with a few people an unfortunate situation affecting someone from our extended family. It was a very troubling situation for this person, and because Janet and I are close to this person, it troubled us deeply too. It even kept me at night, it was so bothersome.

We told a few people about it, two in particular – one in person, and one in a phone call. A week or so after we told what was going on, both people followed up with me. One called because they observed even in a phone call how bothered I was. They could easily picture themself in my situation. They remembered my situation after some time passed, and asked how I was doing, and how our extended family member was coping with things. And then several weeks later they called again, still remembering what I had shared, asking how all of us were doing.

The other person did essentially the same thing, but by text. In both cases, I felt cared for because these two friends Observed, Remembered, and Asked.

The one thing I hope you remember from today’s episode

Make it your goal to become a better observer of people, remembering what you see, and what others tell you about themselves. Make this the basis for inquiring about their lives. They will thank you for it.

Here are a few ideas for how we can respond to today’s program.

The ORA principle is based on the premise you actually care. If you don’t really care, it will come across as manipulation.

To not observe, not remember, or fail to ask is a real relationship killer. It communicates you don’t care, when in reality you may indeed care.

Observing – Remembering – Asking is a skill. And like any skill, it takes repetition and practice. Watch a movie or TV show and pay attention to the actors, using the things we talking about in “observing.”

What are they feeling? What might be going on just below the surface of their life?

If you could ask them a question that would cause them to reply, thank you for asking, what would you ask?

As always, another thing you could do is let me and your fellow listeners know what resonated with you about today’s episode. The easiest way is to put your thoughts in an email and send them to me, john@caringforothers.org. Or you can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes.

Another thing you could do to help get the word out about this podcast is to leave a review in iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.

A related resource that might interest you

Episode 065: End With This Important Question to Ask

Episode 063: Six Reasons Why We're Not More Curious About People


I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.

That’s all for today. See you next week. Goodbye for now.

You Were Made for This is sponsored by Caring for Others, a missionary care ministry. We depend upon the generosity of donors to pay our bills.  If you'd like to support what we do with a secure tax-deductible donation, please click here. We'd be so grateful if you did.