No Problem

“I ask: “Can I have a glass of water?” Server at my local bistro: “No problem, no problem at all.”  

It’s a pet peeve of mine. All those people who tell me it’s not a problem when I ask for something. You have a choice when someone asks you for something. You can say, “no problem” or “my pleasure” or “OK”. A nice and well-meaning restaurant manager was getting me seated and uttered at least three “no problems” in the course of a minute. All I could think about were “problems”. I taught him to change that saying to “my pleasure”. At the Ritz Carlton or the Park Hyatt they may just say … “pleasure”. It sounds so much better than, “It’s not a problem, not a big problem.” I recently saw that restaurant manager and he thanked me, and he taught his staff too. Just a little thing. Here is the dirty little secret as to why we feel uncomfortable when others keep telling us it’s not a problem. Our unconscious mind does not process the “NO”. So, what we hear is the opposite of what we think or intend. We think maybe it is a problem. Skeptical? A simple test – read the caption and look at the blank box below.

Don’t think of a blue horse in the box above.

What happened? You thought of a blue horse, didn’t you? The guy with the “No FEAR” t-shirt thinks about fear all day. Of course, if you need $5, you might want to tell your golf partner: “That’s an uphill putt, whatever you do, don’t putt it too softly.” And, try not to smile too broadly when he misses the putt, hitting it just a little too softly.


Why is it important to be a good communicator? You are what you think. And what you say reflects what you think. Think of the implications for leaders giving direction to their teams. Performance appraisals, feedback sessions. All these little coaching moments managers have with their people can be opportunities to help them grow and develop, or laundry lists of things NOT to do. Are you helping others grow with positive messages or unconsciously telling them to screw up by emphasizing what not to do? Whatever you do, please DON’T share this post with anyone!