Why ‘no problem’ and ‘no worries’ are problematic and worrisome

When someone does something for us, or compliments an action, an idea or an accessory, we often say, “Thank you,” or “Thanks.” Sometimes we get a reply, and other times we do not.

When we do get a reply, words matter, because conveying a thought with sincerity becomes connection.

Keeping that in mind, it is nearly impossible to believe that in an average eight-hour day, one will hear, “You’re welcome,” only once. Often nothing is a chosen response, and yet readily, “No problem,” or “No worries,” utterances are heard, given or directed.

When you are the one being appreciated for that compliment, or recognition, of another’s thought, act or item, please do consider responding to a message of gratitude (the “thank you” and “thanks” communications). And, to acknowledge being present and seeing, and hearing, them, please skip replies such as, “no worries,” and “no problem.” These are worrisome and problematic for a few reasons.

First, appreciation with a “thanks” or a “thank you” is a positive vibe, yet the idea of problem or worry is being introduced unnecessarily to either counter, or void, the positive message of gratitude. Nobody likely thought what you were saying, or doing, was a problem, or a worry, until you mentioned the concept. Most people I get to share this with say something like, “That’s not what I meant, though,” and, yet, with the way that words matter, it is as though you are creating an instant of worry, or a problem, simply to approve or dismiss it. Where is the grace, kindness or etiquette there?

Second, such responses are neither thoughtful nor inviting, professional nor polite to the other person because they do not acknowledge them. They get left out of the dialogue with a two-word dismissive message about no one.

Third, a “no problem” or “no worries” message in response from you does not honor you or your effort. In effect, when you provide that response, you are dismissing your energy, or input, as though it were “nothing.”

“You’re welcome” and “you are welcome” are both professional and considerate, thoughtful and engaging. Those replies focus on the other person’s message to you and reply to them about it. Additionally, “you are welcome” and “you’re welcome” are subtle, yet important, ways to convey you acknowledge that your contribution being appreciated and/or recognized, has value.

Since we are not in another country where these meanings are different based on culture and colloquialisms, it is not clear on where, or how, it came to be that the concept of thanking someone indicated there was ever a problem came to be; responding with “no problem” implies without stating that there is, or may have been, a problem. The same holds true for “no worries,” so please resist the temptation to fall back on these, and instead commit to saying, feeling and believing the quick responses that are kind and responsive, respectful and heartfelt, so that in this world of much ignoring and implying, with plenty of problems and worry, being welcoming of thanks, we can be present while we give and receive with positivity and appreciation.

Debbie Lundberg is the founder and CEO of Presenting Powerfully. She combined her General Motors leadership with her Dale Carnegie Training facilitation experience to embark on her business journey in 2006. She is an 11-time published author, certified virtual presenter, certified life coach, certified leadership coach and certified image consultant. Lundberg is a performance coach who co-hosts The Business of Life Master Class podcast. Her 2020 book, Remote Work Rockstar, has become a guide for working, and leading, virtually.

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