It’s time to send an important email about that thing your boss told you to get on top of two weeks ago. You know the one, it’s been giving you anxiety for, well, two weeks. But you can’t get on top of it unless someone helps you out, with reports, data, contacts or whatever else your job entails.
“Hi there, hope you’re well,” you type, fully aware that after the past two years the receiver is unlikely to be well. With niceties out the way, you launch into assertiveness.
“Please can you send the report over ASAP? We need it by end of day latest.”
You fight the urge to soften your stance, but ugh, it reads a bit bossy, doesn’t it? Let’s whip out your signature move.
“No worries if not!”
But there will be plenty of worries if not – for you, mainly. That very important thing won’t get done on time, your anxiety will only get worse and, depending on how understanding your employer is, you may get in trouble.
And this doesn’t just apply to professional relationships. Ever texted “no worries if not” after sending a Monzo request? You’re not getting that money back anytime soon. What about after trying to reschedule a dinner with friends because, frankly, you’re knackered? Sleep when you’re dead, bitch!
“Did you ever want me? No worries if not,” sings PinkPantheress on All my friends know. Obviously, she will never find out the answer to that question.
“No worries if not” is so ubiquitous in online conversations that it’s become the punchline of Twitter jokes and even The New Yorker cartoons. We all know we shouldn’t say it, that our requests are valid and don’t need to be tempered, but we can’t help ourselves.
“We care a lot about what other people think of us, naturally as human beings,” explains Tiwalola Ogunlesi, confidence coach and founder of Confident and Killing It. “It comes from that whole [thought process of:] ‘I want to please, I want to show that I am nice and supportive’. Because we tend to base our worth on our ability to satisfy and please other people.”
Ogunlesi notes that this impulse can be particularly strong for women, as outdated gender roles have dictated that women must serve and care for others, but everyone can fall victim to this way of thinking.
“And so we make a request and go, ‘no worries if not’, so that if the request comes across as too strong, the other person won’t feel like we’re arrogant or too bossy. We put the buffer there, so that in case we’ve crossed the line a little bit or ruffled feathers, we can quickly retreat and be like: ‘Oh, apologies, I didn’t mean to do that.’”
Sounds about right. But the person on the receiving end will know that our “no worries if not” is a meaningless flourish, right? They can read, so surely “ASAP” and “by end of day” will show them that this is a deadly serious request?
Alas, that’s wishful thinking. In fact, adding that “meaningless flourish” actually gives people an excuse to completely dismiss your request.
“It tells the other person that you’re not serious about your request. It literally just cancels it out,” says Ogunlesi. And just because you’re the kind of person who’s inclined to make things easier for others (hence your attachment to those four pesky words), don’t expect everyone else to do the same for you.
“People will always put themselves first. So you need to realise that if you just let people always have what they want, they will take and take and take until you set boundaries and say no.”
Of course, context is crucial here. If you’re sending a request that is, let’s face it, a little bit cheeky, then adding in “no worries if not” won’t hurt. It’s when it becomes a staple in communication that those four words become a problem.
If you’re prone to unnecessarily saying “no worries if not”, the chances are a few other linguistic habits have also crept into your vocab. You might apologise for, like, everything, whether you’ve missed someone’s email or logged onto a Zoom call with wet hair. Perhaps you preface your bright ideas with “this might sound silly but…” and your very reasonable queries with “this might be a stupid question…”
Ogunlesi has also noticed that, when asked to reveal something positive about themselves, her clients tend to use words like “possibly” or “could” to describe their talents, often turning their answers into questions instead of factual statements.
For example: an excellent chef might say “I could possibly make an alright spag bol?”, inflecting their voice upwards towards the end of the sentence with uncertainty, instead of “I have spent a lot of time perfecting the art of Italian cooking and spaghetti bolognese is my speciality”. This, it should go without saying, is a big no-no.
“I saw a quote on Twitter that said: ‘Don’t boo yourself off the stage before you’ve given yourself a chance to perform.’ These phrases and sentences are doing exactly that,” she says. “That’s the key thing here. We spend a lot of time worrying if people will say yes or no, but that’s not your job. It’s your job to state your needs. If they can meet them, great. And if they can’t, then you find another solution.”
That’s all well and good, but how can we resist the urge to make ourselves smaller and assert our needs IRL?
Well, putting your hands up and accepting the fact that you use these kinds of statements is a good place to start. That way, it’s easier for you to check yourself and rectify the problem.
“When you’ve typed up your email, go back, have a look and see where you’ve added question marks where it should be a full stop, words and phrases such as ‘no worries if not’ and literally just delete them,” says Ogunlesi. “Don’t make assumptions about how the other person will respond, because you actually have no idea.”
Next up, it’s time to accept the fact that you’re not going to be liked by everyone. Why? So you can stop adjusting your behaviour to make people like you.
“The goal in life is not to be liked by everyone. If every single person always accepts every single thing that you do, you’re doing something wrong. Instead of focusing on pleasing others, focus on being true to your authentic self and living a life that you will be proud of.”
If you’re struggling with owning your statements and living unapologetically, Ogunlesi recommends – for women, particularly – reading Glennon Doyle’s bestselling memoir Untamed and highlights a choice quote as a mantra to live by: “Every time you’re given a choice between disappointing someone else and disappointing yourself, your duty is to disappoint that someone else.”
We know what you’re thinking: it’s not that deep. Sure, saying “no worries if not” isn’t ideal, but if you don’t kick the habit, will it really hold you back? After all, everyone seems to do it. Sadly, everyone is wrong.
“We trust people who speak with conviction. When you add all those buffers into your sentence, you don’t build trust with the person you’re speaking to and, actually, potentially lose a bit of credibility in their eyes.”
Using words and phrases of this ilk can also have an impact on your self-image.
“You’re sending a subconscious message to yourself that your needs aren’t as important as other people’s. We have to be so careful of how we speak to ourselves and even what we say out loud,” explains Ogunlesi. This is particularly important if you suffer from imposter syndrome. Ever told yourself to “fake it till you make it”? Nip that in the bud, too.
“When you say ‘fake it till you make it’, you’re sending yourself a subconscious message that you need to become somebody else in order to be successful, which is going to knock your confidence and your self-esteem. ‘No worries if not’ is a little bit similar,” she continues. “That is not a healthy place to be in, because it means you don’t set boundaries. When you don’t set boundaries, you end up living your life for other people instead of living life for yourself. You reach a point where you feel stuck or stagnant, you’re not growing, and it just turns into a vicious cycle.”
No one wants that. But if you do suffer from an unrelenting urge to punch “no worries if not” into your keyboard, it’s also important to not let it become yet another thing you beat yourself up about.
Start small by trying to delete the phrase from a few messages each day and then wean yourself off your confidence crutch gradually. Remember, you can’t read the mind of the person you’re speaking to, so stop worrying about it. There’s at least a 50 per cent chance they’ll say yes to your request. Do you think Pete Davidson said “no worries if not” when asking Kim K on a date?
Shoot your shot and the results may surprise you.