When “It’s Okay” Isn’t Enough

Our default setting seems to be casual. Humans – as social creatures – crave acceptance, and once we feel accepted we tend to settle into a state of passive agreeability. Most of the time that works for us – we can exist just fine under that condition.

But sometimes that just isn’t right.

There are times when the casual phrase “it’s okay” doesn’t work. It acts as a brush-off. It’s an acknowledgement without threat of consequence. By its very nature it is passive: It’s okay. Not great. Not bad. But okay.

The phrase is tossed around often. Running a few minutes late? It’s okay. Spill something? It’s okay.

Other times those two little words aren’t the proper fit for the job. Perhaps the situation is too big to sum up so cleanly. Maybe it really isn’t  okay. Maybe it just isn’t the right time or place or person.

So what do you say instead? What can you say instead?

In that moment where speech breaks, what is there to fill the void between acknowledging what is going on and not rupturing it? “It’s okay” isn’t enough. But what is: a touch? A glance? Another phrase?

Or maybe just silence.

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