I’ve been thinking about thank you, or rather its response. The traditional response when someone says “thank you” is “you’re welcome.” But you rarely hear that anymore. When I listen to an interview and the interviewer says “thank you for coming on the show” the interviewee usually doesn’t say “you’re welcome.” More often they say something like “thank you” or “it’s been a pleasure”, or “I’ve enjoyed it” or “thank you for having me,” and on and on.
I’ve noticed that with twenty-somethings, “you’re welcome” has been replaced by “no problem.” How this started is a mystery to me. It partially speaks of a consciousness of we are all in this together, which is nice, but it also speaks of a self-absorbed world. This is highlighted when I’m at a restaurant and my server, say, fills up my water glass. When I say ”thank you” and he says “no problem” and what I really want to say back is “I didn’t think it would be since it is your job” but I don’t because they wouldn’t get it and would just think how they’re not going to become a crotchety middle-aged person like me.
Responding “you’re welcome” speaks of knowledge of the self and the role it has played in the particular interaction for which you are being thanked. “No problem” speaks of a sense of blissful arrogance—“I am doing this for you, but I’m going to graciously assure you that it is not a problem for me, in case you were worried.”
Or, perhaps “no problem” is not so self-absorbed but is instead a resigned dismissiveness to the baby-boomer generation—a generation that has squandered their responsibility to pass along a viable planet. Perhaps they are really telling us, “it’s no problem for me to do this for you, unlike the huge problems you have passed on to me. Thanks for nothing.”