“When did ‘you’re welcome’ become a gloat?”
A few weeks ago I came across a New York Times article regarding the responses we give to the phrase “thank you.” More specifically it reviews how, “you’re welcome,” what was once a gracious and positive reply, has slowly developed into a negative connotation. It immediately made me stop and think about the replies I give when someone says “thank you.” Usually at work or even with friends I will respond with, “anytime,” “of course,” or “no problem.” Hardly do I ever say “you’re welcome.” Mostly because I feel pretty uncomfortable saying it. In a way I feel like saying “you’re welcome” comes off as a gloat or some way to affirm that “yes, I know I’m great.” This is of course not the impression that I want to give my boss who is thanking me for printing out copies or organizing her schedule.
I think this aversion to saying “you’re welcome” also comes from one of my favorite MTV shows. For those of you who don’t watch Awkward, you are seriously missing out. I have been watching this show for years and it is seriously hilarious. Basically the main antagonist in this show, Sadie, will say hurtful or biting remarks directed towards the protagonist Jenna. After saying these nasty but hilarious digs, she stops and with a Cheshire cat smile says “You’re welcome.” It’s a pretty awesome response, but definitely does not help with the use of this phrase in a positive manner.
Although the NYT does not delve into this TV show specifically, it notes the timeline of how this gracious phrase became a brag. Dating back to 1947 Friendship Train all the way up to one of my favorite movies, it is apparent that the term “you’re welcome” has changed over time. On Twitter for instance, comedians would put links in tweets simply with the words “You’re welcome” for their followers to see. In this sense it shows that they had power and gives the impression that without them no one else would find this story. Of course this developed into all other areas of media, TV posters, online articles, and more. Probably the most memorable example the NYT gives is from the movie Mean Girls when Regina George tells Cady Heron that she is “like really pretty.” When Cady thanks Regina, Regina immediately verbally attacks (albeit more subtle than her other attacks) Cady, who then immediately questions herself. This is just a small instance, but is a clear example of how a simple conversation can turn harsh with those two little words. What was once a kind response has evolved into a new form of rudeness. Clearly, it is unsurprising that I have tended to avoid this phrase regularly, especially at the office.
Despite all of this, I am now actively trying to say “you’re welcome,” but I am slightly changing the way I say it. Since it seems to have developed into this negative and gloat-like response, I am focusing more on the way I say it. Instead of simply responding with “you’re welcome,” I want to show others that I truly mean it. I always smile and use enough energy to give the tone that I am genuinely happy to help them.
On the flip side, I also want to say “you’re welcome” to keep myself from diminishing the work I have done. Honestly by saying “anytime” or “no problem” I feel like I was in a way, belittling the work that I had done. It truly limits myself by not saying “you’re welcome” because it takes away the fact that I did in fact go out of my way to help someone else. Although this will not be an outrageous change, I am curious to see how it turns out. I want to try to change my automatic response in an attempt to reverse the negative connotation with “you’re welcome” and give myself some recognition in the process. I’ll let you know how it goes!