The Problem of ‘No Problem’

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As the waiter finished jotting down our order, he smiled and turned on his heal, punctuating our exchange with,

‘No Problem.’

I’ve heard ‘No Problem’ thousands of times.  It’s a common phrase used in our culture.  And this time his response hit me kind of funny.

I turned the phrase over in my head, ‘No Problem.’  

Did my order present a potential Problem?  Did he need to assure me that our order was NOT a Problem for him?  When did ordering from the menu at a restaurant become a Problem?

In a simple everyday exchange, ‘Problem’ was introduced out of nowhere!

Here’s the problem of ‘No Problem’…

The words NO and PROBLEM are both negatives.

And two negatives do not equal a positive.

I’m going to geek on you here just a bit with scientific proof.

  •  Put two negative ends of two magnets together.  Neither magnet magically turns positive.  They don’t attract.  In fact, two negatives ends of magnets repel each other instantly!    
  •  Two electrons with negative charges don’t magically create a positive charge.  They bounce from each other.

When someone says No Problem, they’re not actually affirming anything.  ‘No Problem’ is NOT a positive response to a request.

I know I’m weird, but these are the types of thoughts that run through my head when I interact with people in everyday exchanges.  

The words ‘No Problem’ are a Double Negative.  And a Double Negative served with a smile seems incongruous.

Instead of a Double Negative, how about serving up a positive response like:

  •  I’ll get that right for you
  •  Thank you for your order
  •  What a delicious choice!

But…No Problem

From that moment, I started listening for ‘No Problem’ as a well-intended response. 

Ever notice something once and then you see that thing over and over and over?

 ‘No Problem’ popped up EVERYWHERE!

And then the inevitable happened a few days later.  

My wife asked me to take out the garbage and I responded….you guessed it…

‘No Problem’ fell out of my mouth.

It’s like I could see the words escaping from my mouth in slow motion.  I tried to pull them back as I realized I was saying them, but my brain couldn’t catch up to my tongue.

Two negatives don’t equal a positive.  

‘No Problem’ does not equal, ‘YES, I’ll take out the garbage.’

Once I noticed the problem of No Problem, I started noticing the other Double Negatives that creeps into our everyday language.  Here are six Double Negatives I’m working diligently to convert to Positives:

  1. No Problem
  2. No Hassle
  3. No Worries
  4. Can’t Complain
  5. Not Bad
  6. Wouldn’t Hurt

I’d LOVE for you to add to my list!

So, if someone asks you to do something, don’t answer No Problem / No Hassle / No Worries.  Smile let them know that their request brings you a bit of joy to fulfill their request.  Even a simple YES is better than a Double Negative.

If someone asks, how are you doing, don’t answer, Can’t Complain / Not Bad.  That doesn’t mean anything!!  It’s a lazy response and gives the person who cares about you zero information about the state of YOU. Answer with a real answer about how you’re doing!  

If someone asks your opinion if they should do something, don’t answer Wouldn’t Hurt.  Okay, it doesn’t hurt, but will it HELP?  Tell them it’s a GOOD idea.

I’m now on a mission to convert my language from Double Negatives to Positives.  I challenge you to join me in this Mission of Positivity.  Take three simple steps:

  1. Notice the Double Negative phrases you use 
  2. Notice Double Negatives other people use 
  3. Replace your Double Negatives to Positives whenever possible

This simple shift in your language will send a ripple of Positivity in your business.  In your community.  Especially in your home.

Imagine the immense Positivity we can create!

Shine Boldly!


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