“Not A Problem” is Sometimes an Uppity Response

The “Thank You” Scenario

I have noticed the tendency the past few years, for someone to respond “Not a problem” instead of “You’re welcome”, when someone says “Thank you” or “I appreciate the help” to them.
 
Being sympathetic to the thanker in the conversation, I look at the “Not a problem” response as if the person is telling me, “Our interaction was not all that horrible. You didn’t bother me as much as one would think. You annoyed me only a little bit.”
 
I wonder why folks don’t just say “You’re welcome. It was my pleasure,” instead. I would think “Not a problem” would be appropriate if a person first said, “I am sorry to have bothered you,” or “I apologize for causing you more work.”
 
Do with it what you will.
 
The “Giving Direction” Scenario
 

More tolerable is saying “No problem” or “Not a problem” after receiving direction, but it still annoys me.  Example:

Boss: “I need you to have your re-writes done by Tuesday.”

Employee: “Not a problem.”

While the employee might be accurate, that performing their job duty is not an undue stress on them, the boss typically has that consideration low on her list.  She simply wants her document completed and turned in so she can move it forward.  The employee is not doing the boss a favor.  He is doing his job.

 
 
In both scenarios above, I am seeing a tendency to be less respectful to others, less thankful, less responsible for one’s actions, in favor of using diffusing language.  Perhaps it is an attempt to remove oneself from the moment, or perhaps it is just dynamic dialect in action.


[Author’s note: This posting was originally posted back in the summer of 2007, but I edited it, in 2013, to separate the two sections for readability.]
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One thought on ““Not A Problem” is Sometimes an Uppity Response

  1. I've also always disliked this, for pretty much the same reasons. I was never really able to qualify exactly why though, but I think you've hit it on the head. On the other side, I often think about being responsible for the words one chooses on one end and not being responsible for mistaken interpretations on the other. It's a balance I have yet to find myself. Also, I should probably stop saying “ain't no thang” just because it amuses me.

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