Wednesday, November 12, 2014

You’re Welcome vs. No Problem

I am a serial thanker.  This may be partly because of my experience in service industries or due to innate courtesy.  When living in NYC, I always thanked bus drivers profusely, partly to be nice but also convinced that some day one would recognize me running to catch up and would wait for me.  Recently, I have noticed a disturbing phenomenon: the new default response to a thank you from the younger generation is “no problem.”   However, I do not consider that “no problem” is by any means an equivalent to “you’re welcome” or that it is appropriate in all situations.

When someone says “you’re welcome,” she is making an affirmative representation that providing service to you was, if not her privilege, something that gave her satisfaction.  The transaction is cemented by gracious thanks on your side and polite assurance on hers.

In contrast, when someone responds to thanks with a “no problem,” whether courteously or airily delivered, it implies that there was a problem or that he was not overly inconvenienced by the service provided.  “It was not a problem for me to assist you in this way” or “There is no need to thank me because it didn’t cause me a problem.”   Does that individual intend to communicate churlishness?  Probably not (although the service I receive from some would indicate otherwise) but why not send the thanker off feeling appreciated rather than grudgingly tolerated?  Otherwise, why acknowledge the thanks at all? 

Is this generational, mere informality or a real decline in manners?


CGrace said...

I'm always happy to accuse people of bad manners :) However, I'm not sure if this is bad manners/implied churlishness as much as pure laziness. I think that, instead of weeping over the lack of manners in the world (although we could do that, too), we should weep over lack of any formality in language. I think that, especially in the case of strangers like you're talking about, the correct response is, "You're welcome." Maybe, MAYBE you could use "No problem", very infrequently, when talking to very close family. You know, "Thanks for taking the trash out, dear". "Oh, no problem, I was running outside anyway." I'm willing to be lenient there. :) Interesting question, though! I love discussing things like this.

Anonymous said...

For me personally, I feel less than most of the time. Saying "you're welcome" would mean I'm more at the forefront of attention. Saying "no problem" means I'm just being helpful, no need to acknowledge me like I'm anything special... I can just go back to being a wall flower.