Optimise for the Double Thank-You Moment

4 min readFeb 22, 2022

The Double Thank-You Moment

I first heard of the term the “Double Thank-You Moment” in Amit Varma’s podcast The Seen and The Unseen. The rough description is as follows, quoted from an article he wrote

When you place an order at, say, a Cafe Coffee Day, you say ‘thank you’ when you are handed your cup of coffee. And the cashier says ‘thank you’ when you hand over your money. This double ‘thank-you’ illustrates that both of you benefit from the transaction. Both of you profit.

This is, simply put, the root cause of prosperity. Every single voluntary transaction that takes place makes both parties better off, and increases the sum total of value in the world.

The double thank-you moment is an interaction between two individuals where both individuals gain from the interaction, and the overall value becomes greater than the sum of parts. This is not limited to direct trade between individuals. This can also apply to say, a situation where one individual mentors a colleague who’s new to the project. The mentor gains by learning how to mentor individuals, and makes the team more efficient, and the mentee gains skills directly. Or it could be as simple as 2 people enjoying a coffee and a conversation. Both gain by having a good time.

It is, by definition, a positive sum interaction.

The Thank-You Screw-You Moment

The opposite of the Double Thank-You moment is the Thank-You Screw-You moment. This is an interaction where one party gains while the other loses. The most extreme example of this is when the interaction is non-consensual, for example, one person stealing money from someone else.

There are other examples of this too. A pharma company might put an extremely high price to a cancer drug they have a patent for, thus abusing their monopoly. A manager might take all the credit for an individual’s work, but pass all the blame to the individual.

It is, by definition, a zero-sum interaction.

Life is a Combination of Both

Our work and personal lives have scores of Double Thank-You and Thank-You Screw-You moments on a daily basis, all jumbled up. There are interactions you are thankful for, and interactions where you feel cheated. There could also be interactions where you ended up making the other person feel cheated.

Double Thank-You Is More Sustainable Than Altruism

To consistently engage in altruism, the desire for doing good needs to be so much that it eclipses the time, effort, or money the individual lost by engaging in it.

It may happen, but it requires such a high dose of good intentions and motivation, that it cannot always scale.

If a person gets both personal gain and the feeling of helping the other, it becomes easier for them to keep that interaction happening. Therefore, Double Thank-You is not only more scalable, but also more sustainable than Altruism.

Optimise for The Double-Thank You Moment

The important thing in work, and in life, is to optimise for Double Thank-You moments. There is no magic formula or a to-do list that helps you achieve this. It’s the same advice you must have read hundreds of times.

What To Look For At Work: Try to work in an environment where the benefits are mutual. You feel that you’ve contributed to the success of the organisation and your peers, and have yourself gained skills, knowledge, friendships, satisfaction, and a fair compensation. See if the organisation takes action against individuals who screw others over.

What To Look For In A Relationship: The best relationships (both platonic and romantic) are those which feel like a win-win. If you feel like you’re sacrificing for the other person all the time and are not able to set boundaries, or if you feel the other person is giving up too much for you, it’s not a good place to be in. It will lead to a situation where one person starts feeling dissatisfied and the overall dynamic of the relationship suffers.

What You Can Do At A Personal Level: Both in work work and in personal life, the most cherishable interactions are those which lead to a double thank you moment. Learn how to set appropriate boundaries, and to say no when it is important. At the same time, don’t take advantage of situations where you’re in a position where the other person has to compromise.


  • Any interaction or trade which produces positive outcomes for the two parties involved is a double thank-you moment.
  • Prefer working in environments which have systems or cultures that encourage positive sum interactions and discourage or penalise zero sum interactions.
  • Prefer making friends and romantic partners where interacting with the other person makes both people feel good.
  • Try to produce positive outcomes for others in your interactions with them.
  • Set boundaries to ensure you don’t get screwed.

Further Reading