Here’s Why "You’re Welcome" Is Not The Right Response To "Thank You"
No problem? Nope, problem.
Thank you: a polite expression of gratitude.
But we do need to talk about the way to respond when being thanked.
Many people, particularly in the US, reply to “thank you” with “you’re welcome.”
And it's not just young people: To people from other parts of the world, “you’re welcome” can sound rude.
But the problem with “you’re welcome” isn’t sarcasm. Well, not the whole problem.
Not that this is the intention, but "you’re welcome” can sound like you're taking the polite gesture from the thanker, and bringing attention to your kindness.
To the unaccustomed ear, it can sound like “yes, I did you a favour, you should be thankful.”
It’s not intentional, I’m sure.
Similarly “no problem”, or the reply favoured by our Australian friends, “no worries”, are both flawed.
Often said with a dismissive shrug, "no problem" can be interpreted as simply denying that being kind is an inconvenience.
But to those used to hearing "you're welcome," "no problem" can be sound like being kind is sometimes an inconvenience...
Young people tend to respond to being thanked with "no problem", which older people find rude.
Why is this? Here's where it gets technical...
We use phatic expressions all the time. For example when we respond to “how are you?” by saying “good, you?”
Often we use a phatic response when we don’t know what else to say. Saying "I'm OK," for example, even when we're not.
We know people aren’t (usually) actively asking how we are, so we respond phatically.
But because "thank you" is a sincere expression, many common phatic responses sound empty in comparison.
So, what are the options? Are we at a linguistic impasse?
As the Brits have long known, the correct way to respond to “thank you” is to say "thank you".
This response is still phatic in purpose, but the tone and context can't be misread.
And there's no need to get stuck in a thank you loop; once each will do.
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