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Whatever Happened to “You’re Welcome”?

Posted on November 12, 2012 by Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D.

“Thank you,” you say to a young man or woman who has just refilled your coffee cup at a restaurant.

“No problem,” he or she says.

And I say to you, readers of this blog: Whatever happened to “you’re welcome”?

At the risk of sounding like an old fogey (which, at 52, I may very well be), I have to say that I don’t like this locution at all.  Why should it be a problem for someone who has been assigned a particular task to perform that task, particularly when the customer or client has acknowledged said help in a kind and friendly way?

And when did all this start?

In the early 90′s, I had the privilege of visiting Jamaica as part of the W.K. Kellogg National Fellowship Program. There, I discovered “no problem” as the universal reply to “thank you.”  Although Jamaica has been plagued with far too many social and economic challenges for years, the response “no problem” was consistent with the indefatigable, upbeat attitude of just about everyone I met there.

But here in the U.S., “no problem” strikes me as a lazy, even ridiculous way to acknowledge an expression of gratitude.

There are lots of troublesome social conventions that are here to stay, such as the epidemic of people yakking on cell phones in public and ignoring the world around them.

But is it too much to hope for a return to the simple, polite and elegant phrase, “You’re welcome”?

It’s time for parents, teachers, and other mentors to encourage those in their care to do away with “no problem.”

Readers, I call upon you to help spread the word.  Repost this, forward it to a friend, or share it with your colleagues.

Thank you.

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What’s the relationship between ethics and etiquette?  I discuss this in my latest book, Ethical Intelligence, available at your local library, favorite independent bookseller, or here.

Subscribe to my free ethics newsletter here.  I do not give your information to anyone.  Period.

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