I have a problem with saying 'No problem!'

I have a problem with saying 'No problem!'

When someone is kind enough to thank you for something, how do you respond?

Next time you’re shopping, or in another situation where people get thanked, listen to some responses. Does “Thank you” get followed by the standard American answer, “You’re welcome,” or is there something else?

As far as I can tell, “You’re welcome” is becoming dangerously rare. Too often, if people answer a “Thank you” at all, they knock it away by saying “No problem!”

That’s a shorthand way of saying “I’m not bothered,” which doesn’t strike me as answering what the question was in the first place.

“Thank you” for being given something seems to require “you’re welcome” to make any sense:

Thank you (for giving me this).

You’re welcome (to have it).

French has more polite forms which have stood up better against modern rushing. “Merci” may be answered “je vous en prie” (I pray — or beg — you), as in “Please, don’t mention it.” More commonly, at least for French speakers I’ve met, I hear “avec plaisir” — with pleasure. Even the most dismissive replies I hear in French, “de rien” or “ca ne fait rien” are “it’s nothing” (in short and long versions).

“No problem” is more crude than that. It’s “I didn’t think it was a problem, you did!” or “You’d have had trouble doing it, I didn’t.” As I think of the tone in which “No problem” gets said, I get reminded of the schoolyard “Nyah-nyah” teasing I thought I had long ago left behind.

So let’s be kinder to one another in conversation. Avoid “No problem!” and try something that means what you’re really thinking… or what you’d like people to think you’re thinking, anyway. See how much smoother conversations get.

You’re welcome!
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  • I get annoyed by someone like Matt Lauder who;s in the habit of saying "Thank you very much" (with an emphasis on the 'much') for just about everything. It seems to strike me as pretentious, if that's the right word. Love your post.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Thank you... er, thank you. Em-PHA-sis on the wrong syll-AB-le drives me nuts, but you see I don't write about that very easily. (Ah, there had to be something.) Thanks for the idea of emphasis on the wrong WORD. Hmmm....

  • My favorite is No Worries. OY!!
    Now I naturally say No Problem instead of Thank You but every once in a while I concentrate enough to say Thank You.

  • In reply to Howard Moore:

    Thanks, Howard. "No worries" -- well, it worries me! "No problem" in place of "thank you" would derail those who are ready to use it in place of "you're welcome," so that's an intriguing idea.
    Concentrating, by the way, would ease a lot of the mindless use of phrases that just don't fit the conversation. I know, brain cramps happen, but ... oh well, this is threatening to turn into a post!

  • I think younger people use "No problem" more than us older folks. I guess they think it's more chill, showing how laid back they are. I am hoping it fades like "My bad" instead of "I'm sorry" has.

    Although in writing at least most people can spell NO and PROBLEM. The word "you're" for some reason gives many people problems.

    Great food for thought, thank you!

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    Thank you, Kathy. I hope it fades, too... I'm not hearing "my bad" much, which is a great relief. (Thanks for the reminder!)

    Thanks also for the spelling idea... watch this space!

  • I must agree with Kathy Mathews' comments. Thank you for this post because it reminds me that being...ahem...someone of a certain age...I don't have to adopt any newfangled shorthand expression that doesn't say what I mean to say.

  • In reply to folkloric:

    Thank you for your agreeable agreement, so to speak. I appreciate your comments and your great ability to say what you mean.

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