Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"No Problem" is... well, a problem.

It seems that the polite, standard phrase You're welcome is becoming extinct. Have you noticed the number of times at a store or restaurant your Thank you is returned with No problem?

I think this is a problem.

Saying No problem is in a very real sense a refusal of one's offering of thanksgiving. Instead of returning the conversation by focusing on the other person (particularly with the word you, as in You are welcome), saying No problem keeps all of the focus on the recipient.

Furthermore, sometimes people say Thank you even if they were inconvenienced (out of politeness). In that case, there may have been a problem, but they were willing to look beyond it to offer thanks. When the recipient mutters No problem it's like a slap in their face to remind them that there was indeed some type of problem.

I realize this sounds petty, but a final reason to avoid using the tired No problem is that it makes one sound... well, how should I say this... ignorant. I know that sounds cold and superficial, but there's nothing about the expression that communicates that I carefully choose my words because I am honored to speak with you.
I guess I should go ahead and offer a My bad to those of you I may have offended. My guess though is that my offense was no problem. After all, the phrase is so much fun to say that it becomes addictive.

Next time you're at a restaurant or store, pay attention to the response you receive when you offer thanks. After all, words matter.

My wife and I have been trying to train our children to say You're welcome. I hope you'll join us in this small step toward returning a little bit of politeness to our world. After all, saying You're welcome really is no problem at all.

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