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The Problem with “Not a Problem”, “No Worries”…


The start of the year is a great time to make little changes that can have a huge effect on you and the year that unfolds. Our team decided enough was enough and we made a conscious effort (and had a lot of fun along the way) to change our language. It frustrated us that when we said thank you so many people were telling us “not a problem” which we already knew because we didn’t have a problem to start with! We hear it everywhere, shops, phones, friends, family… people have adopted the expression “not a problem” or “no worries” in place of “thank you or “you’re welcome.” For example, if you thank someone in email, by phone, or in person for great service or doing a favour, the response is often “not a problem” or worse “no worries”. You may even use it yourself and be wondering what our problem with it is.

The problem with “not a problem” is it negative parts: not and problem (the same applies to “no worries”). When it comes to tone, two negatives fail to multiply to create a positive. “Not a problem” has, at best, a neutral feeling – ideally you’d want someone to feel great after they’ve just expressed their gratitude to you for being great.

The meaning of “Problem”

Noun: A matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome eg: “They have financial problems”

Synonyms: difficulty, issue, trouble, worry, complication, difficult situation, mess, muddle, mix-up

The definition of problem

The noun problem has two common meanings:

1a:  a question raised for inquiry, consideration, or solution

1b:  a proposition in mathematics or physics stating something to be done

2a:  an intricate unsettled question

2b:  a source of perplexity, distress, or vexation

2c:  difficulty in understanding or accepting

You don’t use ‘problem’ with why when you are explaining a situation eg: ‘the problem why he couldn’t come is that he is ill’, you say ‘the reason he couldn’t come is because he is ill’.

Look what happens when you contrast “not a problem” with the following phrases in response to gratitude...

  • You are welcome
  • My pleasure
  • Happy to help
  • Excellent, we will get on to that for you
  • I am always happy to help
  • Fantastic, we are on to it!
  • I am glad you like it
  • Certainly!
  • Thank you!

We know all environments can be different and the examples above can be adapted to suit your requirements. What they have in common is positive language: welcome, pleasure, happy, please, glad, sure, like, enjoy, thank you.

Positive language is used by positive people and influences others. Positive people are proven to be productive people, productive people positively impact on business.

Changes in your language can have profound effects on you and your environment. We sometimes see swear jars and the like around to change bad habits or language. Can you make your environment more positive by simply removing ‘not a problem’ and ‘no worries’? Love to know how you get on and feel free to call and see if you can catch us out!