Thank you for your column in the Boston Globe about saying “Thank you.” I find that an honest rendition of those two words merits much in return.
Could you please address the regrettable habit that has sprung up, that of a reply of “No problem” as opposed to “You’re welcome?” I am routinely getting this answer, particularly from the younger set, particularly from people whom I have just thanked for doing their job, the one they get paid for! “No problem” sounds insincere and insouciant. Of course I am 72 years old, so perhaps this is a change I should learn to accept. I hope not!
S. C., Oak Bluffs, MA
You’re welcome, Sara.
Unfortunately, that phrase seems to have disappeared from our language. How often do you hear it as opposed to how often you hear someone replying to a “thank you,” by saying, “Oh, no, thank you.” Whenever I hear that return “Thank you,” all I can think is, “Why are you trumping my ‘Thank you’ with your ‘Thank you?’”
When you respond to a “Thank you” with “You’re welcome,” you are acknowledging the thanks and letting the person know you appreciate it. To say nothing when someone says “Thank you” to you is the equivalent of ignoring the person, and nobody likes to be ignored.
If you really do want to thank someone in return, saying “You’re welcome; and thank you, too” is the best solution. Saying “You’re welcome” first removes any implication that you are simply dismissing the person’s “Thank you” by not acknowledging it.
“No problem” has wormed its way into the normal dialogue we experience with each other. I hear it from all ages of people, not just young people, and I’m inclined to accept it as part of our language today. That said, the same advice holds true for a “No problem” or “It’s nothing” response to a “Thank you.” Precede it with a “You’re welcome,” and now it works perfectly well as a response.
So, today, tomorrow, the next day, take a moment to think about how you’ll respond the next time someone says “Thank you” to you. Try bringing back “You’re welcome” as the first thing you’ll say in acknowledging the “Thank you.” You’ll put a smile on the other person’s face, and that is the real point.