MY PROBLEM WITH ‘NO PROBLEM’
By: Lauren Anderson
I do it. You do it. We all do it.
We all use the phrase “No problem” all the time. And recently it’s started to bug me a little.
But why? WHY?!?!?
Let me explain…
I was getting my groceries at a fancy grocery store. I know I over pay there, but I stop anyway because it’s close and they’re open late.
You know the kind right? Where they bring your bags out to the car for you, even though you beg them not to? Yeah. And then I’m forced to make awkward conversation with a kid that could care less, until we walk up to my 2001 PT Cruiser, and I feel compelled to say,
“Uh, I’m gonna put the bags in my back seat because my trunk is filled with props from a Fringe show I did two years ago, and some old CD’s, because I only have a CD player in my car because it’s a 2001 PT Cruiser…” and then mumble into an awkward trail-off .
They stare at me. Blank-faced. A face I might be interpreting it as pity? But it’s more likely confusion. I imagine them thinking “What’s the PT Cruiser girl doing shopping here? Does she know we sell 19 dollar olives?”
I tip them two dollars, even though I don’t know what to tip, or if tipping is even appropriate in this case. They accept it, but I imagine them thinking as they eye my car, “Poor thing, she probably needs this more than I do.” And then I thank them.
And the response I get? “No problem.”
NO PROBLEM. That little phrase we all use, that I bump against every time.
It’s this little thing that we say when we think we’re being gracious. Or when we couldn’t care less. Or in place of a “You’re welcome”.
But my question is, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH SAYING YOU’RE WELCOME”?!?!?! Especially in an industry where customer service is the job.
Cause now, not only did I receive store-to-car service that I didn’t want, and didn’t need, but by saying “No problem” it implies that I’m still somehow the one THAT PUT YOU OUT! And I didn’t! I didn’t do that at all! In fact, I tried to avoid it and make your life easier!
I actually got pulled over recently for speeding (39 in a 30– I mean c’mon! I was following the flow of traffic!). And when I thanked the officer at the end of our exchange for GIVING ME A TICKET cause I’m polite even in the face of injustice, guess what he said to me?! JUST GUESS.
Yup. He said, “No problem.”
I’m not sure how I drove home after seeing so much red. But there it is.
Now, if someone came up to me and said, “Hey, would it be a problem if you came to my house at 630 instead of 6? I have a meeting.” THEN AND ONLY THEN do I think the phrase “No problem!” is appropriate. Because it’s actually answering a question, “Is there a problem?”. And you are actually responding “No there is not a problem.”
But that’s not how it EVER gets used!
I can hear it too. I know I’m being ridiculous. I know I’m a word-nerd that gets bogged down in the minutiae of phrases and such. If you’ve been reading this blog you shouldn’t be surprised. You must know by now, I believe in my core that WORDS ARE IMPORTANT. And what we say and how we say them matter.
CHANGE YOUR LANGUAGE, CHANGE YOUR LIFE!!!
Some of you are applauding me. Some of you reading this are rolling your eyes so hard right now. But hear me out.
By saying, ‘No problem’ it implies there was a potential problem to begin with. When more often than not– there isn’t one!
And by continually saying it, it means that everything we do for each other is at first considered a “Problem”. Or something negative. When usually we don’t mean it that way at all.
So I started thinking, why do we choose to say “No problem” when we could be saying things like, “It was my pleasure.” or, “Thanks for letting me know.” or, “Glad I could help.”
Or the old classic fan favorite, “You’re welcome”!
Why is it so much easier to reach for a phrase that abates a negative than to use a phrase that remains only positive? Or even a phrase that leaves us feeling better than we did before?
I don’t have an answer for this. But now I’m intrigued.
Cause I think our society does this all the time. And it bubbles up in more than our words. And no more so than how we relate to exercise and our bodies.
A bulk of the messaging I receive from my media etc. about exercise (outside the safety and intentional messaging at Solcana) could be broken down into basically this–
“EXERCISE IS HARD AND THERE WILL BE PAIN BUT IT’S GOOD FOR YOU SO SHUT UP AND DO IT.”
In a gruff screaming voice. In a voice that’s distinctly about overcoming a negative experience, as opposed to welcoming a positive one.
Well, over time, without knowing it– that voice teaches me that exercise is something HARD that I have to OVERCOME. Instead of something FUN, that I GET TO EXPERIENCE.
There’s a difference! And kind of a big one IMHO. The negative phrasing keeps me passive, which keeps me convinced that things can only happen TO ME. But the positive phrasing keeps me active! I CHOOSE what and when and how much!
When I struggle to get my body to the gym, any little thing can help. And often that starts with what I say to myself. And sometimes what is said to me.
It’s taken awhile, but slowly I’m starting to convince myself that exercise can be fun, and that I actually enjoy it. And it doesn’t have to be this thing that I grit my teeth and power through.
If I change the scope of how I’m viewing it, exercise can be sacred. That uplifts and entertains! That rejuvenates and inspires! Not something to be endured. Something to be savored.
Sounds big right? If you’re anything like me, thinking of exercise this way seems… oh, I dunno… like a load of bullshit. Even after all this time on my fitness journey. Even fully knowing how much fun I can have at the gym.
But I think that’s because of how engrained it is, the idea that exercise is hard or painful or NOT FOR ME. It’s in there. Like, REALLY IN THERE.
I was talking with my therapist the other day about something we’re working on, and she said, “The issue that you’re facing isn’t complicated, but it is structural. Meaning that it is so engrained in you, that it can feel like a fundamental part of who you are. So it can seem impossible to change.”
That really resonated with me because I think a lot of us face issues like that. My relationship with exercise isn’t anything unique or particularly complicated, but it is FUNDAMENTAL. And that shit can be tough to break through.
Perhaps it’s like jackhammering old concrete to put in a lush new garden.
Not only do I have to envision the concrete could be a supple new green space that grows life, I also have to put in the heavy lifting to get it there. A potentially daunting task… but I know through doing the steady work long enough now, that any movement forward counts, no matter how slow.
So maybe it starts as small as changing my proverbial “No problem” mindset when I think about exercise to a “My pleasure” response instead.
Change my language, change my life. I might be on to something.
It’s worked before on this fitness journey, so it stands to reason it might work again.
I mean, it worked with how I talk to myself. I remember when I was so so cruel. But I don’t do that anymore. And that started with what I actually said about myself and to myself. It started as small as talking to myself the way I would to a friend.
And now I can’t think of talking to myself in any other way.
So where do I go from here?
Maybe I’ll start by catching myself when I say “No problem” on a text. Delete and type “My pleasure” instead. Maybe when someone says, “I’m running 10 late” instead of “No problem”
I’ll text, “Okay! See you when you get here.”
Maybe instead of me saying “I have to go to the gym today.”
I can start saying stuff like, “I GET to go to the gym today!”
Or instead of stuff like, “I’m too busy to workout”
I can say, “A workout will give me more energy for my busy day.”
Or even changing “I hate burpees” to a… uh…okay…
Maybe some things will always be a problem. 😛