No Problem

Added to my list of banned phrases: “No problem.”

I hear people – sometimes even myself – saying this all the time, and it was only recently that I realized that, in its essence, “No problem” can be a really passive aggressive/downright rude thing to say.

Depending on the context “No problem” implies:

  • This is not a problem.
  • This is actually a problem, and I am choosing to pretend it is not.
  • This is actually a problem to me, and I am passively aggressively letting you know.
  • While many other people would consider this a problem, I may or may not.

What I am training myself to say instead: “Ok.”

Somehow “Ok” feels more neutral to me.

Another thing I often hear people say, and this may just be because I’m from the Midwest and there is a certain level of politeness (false politeness?) that occurs: “No, you’re fine.”

I most often hear this in context with an issue of space occupation. Example from today: Crowded elevator, one person backs into another and pushes into her with his bag. Pusher apologizes and Pushee says, “No, you’re fine.”

Really? Hitting people with a briefcase is a fine thing to do?

Or in the grocery store, there will be a crowded aisle with one person camped in the middle, meticulously inspecting the varieties of soup for sale and blocking traffic for everyone else. What do the people who have to maneuver around often say? You guessed it, “No, you’re fine.”

While “Ok” doesn’t feel quite as right to respond to these scenarios, “No problem” isn’t an option, either.

I think a friendly smile and nod would suffice.

no problem










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