it's not you it's me

Even with the best intentions, sometimes the words we use land in the other persons lap like a piano dropped from the sky. Certain common phrases we (all) use daily have a rapid tendency to backfire especially when used in the wrong situations with the right people. Here are 6 expressions guaranteed to fail most of the time:

  • “Just (or please) calm down”
  • “It will be okay”
  • “It is what it is”
  • “Trust the process”
  • “At the end of the day”
  • “With all due respect”

I’ll come back to these in a moment but first I want to explore why these don’t work.

Remember: If the people you are speaking to could change their behavior, they would.

More times than not, they simply aren’t aware they are being victimized about something and the natural tendency is to allow the emotional roller coaster to begin its course. Some people choose to get off after one time around the track, while others stay on all day.

When speaking to someone who is in this emotional state: It’s not about a quick change but gently finding the root cause of the upset

Some may argue that it’s better to simply give that individual the space to express themselves and just be there for them, versus “trying to get them out of it” and they would be correct. There isn’t one simple or finite solution. Each person, situation and dynamic is unique and your approach should adjust accordingly.

Now back to those phrases we all love to hate…

“Just (or please) Calm Down”

Asking, or worse telling someone to calm down never works. If someone is in an emotional state, their ability to focus and see what’s possible outside of their current feelings isn’t happening. If they could calm down, they would. You have to be patient and allow that person to process what they are experiencing before trying to help them. For some it could be quick, but for others it takes time. Instead: Try acknowledging their current emotional state and make sure they feel connected, listened to and acknowledged. They need you more than they know.

“It Will Be Okay”

Really? Will it? Do you know for complete certainty that it will? If not, I would advise airing on the side of caution before trying to inflate a tire that you know has a slow leak. Instead: Try focusing on the positive aspects of the situation and begin to navigate the situation and that person’s emotions to a happier more positive state. Never over promise an outcome.

“It Is What It Is”

By far one of the worst expressions on the planet. It really wants to sound profound but when you break it down it simply isn’t. Here is what you really just said: It is = It is. When was that in dispute? Did that person say, “Hey, it is not what it is.”, or, “It is what it is not.”? Instead: Try defining in a positive light what you think it “actually” is. If you can’t avoid this all together.

“Trust The Process”

Really? Can you say without any hesitation that you have trusted the process when you weren’t sure what was happening? I didn’t think so. Although it sounds great on the surface, it’s actually quite deep and probably not something a person can wrap their head around while the level of uncertainty in their life is at an all-time high. The fact is, they don’t know what’s next and the process itself is part of what’s troubling them. Instead: Try guiding them to the positives of the situation, potential best outcomes and what actions they can take now towards reaching them.

“At The End Of The Day”

Oh boy, this one is used as much as the internet. Let’s break this down a bit. Is it the end of the day when you use it? If so, how is that going to make a difference. What you are inferring is that it’s not the end of the world, which by the way is just as bad. Skip the “life goes on” as well and recognize that what you are trying to express is that this is a moment in time and there is a lesson to be learned when that person is ready and open to it. Instead: Try having them acknowledge what’s troubling them and begin to ask them “if and how” this will matter in 5 hours, days, weeks or years. The key is to have them see past their current mood and present state and begin focusing on their future.

“With All Due Respect”

A popular phrase with people who tend to be passive aggressive or think it’s a strategic way to be polite when in fact they are looking to do (and be) the opposite. Never have I heard this expression used without being followed up with some type of negative. To be fair, you can and have the right to your opinion or disagree with someone but at least avoid diluting your thoughts with an inauthentic statement first. You don’t have to respect someone to express your point of view but you should however be respectful of that individual.

Final thoughts: As a coach, I was taught that you have three options when speaking to someone who is upset. Regardless if you’re a coach, these work in principle.

  1. Coach Them: If you are a coach, great. If not, this speaks to your ability and desire to support the other person and move them forward to a better state.
  2. Get Them: This is all about being present, listening and letting the other person feel and know they are acknowledged. This alone can help create the space so that the other person can begin moving forward.
  3. Walk Away: Not the best solution but sometimes necessary. There will come a time when someone is to overwhelmed to want anyone around. Instead of insisting something of someone who’s not capable of doing it, respect their wishes, give them the space they need and check in on them.

The floor is yours: What phrase(s) would you add to the list and why?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

Joshua /

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