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The Favorite Word of Average People: “Okay”

The Favorite Word of Average People: “Okay”

I remember learning the word, “okay,” as a child and marveling at its versatility. It has such a broad meaning that you can use it in many contexts, and as a kid working to communicate with a limited vocabulary, being able to say “okay” carried me through all sorts of scenarios.

As I’ve gotten older, my feelings about the word have changed. Where saying “okay” used to give me freedom, now it holds me back. I’ve learned that in most cases, it’s not okay to say, “OK.”

Okay has become a toxic cop out

Sure, you can say “ok” in almost any situation. For example:

  • “How was the article?” “It’s okay.”
  • “How was that candidate?” “She was okay.”
  • “How’s your life?” “It’s okay.”

Saying that something is okay doesn’t tell us much about it. Usually it means that something is satisfactory, but it’s not especially good. It’s a way to avoid conflict by failing to offer meaningful feedback. It allows us to avoid committing to authentic communication.

When we say something is okay, we stop thinking

Not only does referring to something as okay keep us from providing a valuable assessment of the thing in question, but it keeps us from thinking about how to make that thing better.

Instead of trouble shooting and finding solutions, we check the “okay” box and move on to more interesting pursuits. When someone comes to us looking for feedback, telling them that something is okay doesn’t give them any idea about how to improve.

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Labelling everything as “okay” makes you boring

Something that is just okay needs more work. People who label things in this manner are providing a lazy answer. Okay is a boring answer to a host of interesting questions, and it’s up to you to do better.

Communication is a two-way street. A person who asks for your honest opinion about a subject doesn’t want to hear that something is okay. You might as well say your opinion on all things is, “meh,” because you’re just that uninspiring.

“Okay” connotes a lack of ideas or an unwillingness to contribute something more substantial to the conversation. If everything is just okay all the time, the people who talk to you will grow bored. They’d get more feedback talking to the wall. You’ve made it their sole responsibility to keep the conversation afloat, which can be tiresome.

Saying “okay” too often makes people feel that you’re too agreeable

You can be easy to work with and disagree with people sometimes. When an idea is taking shape, you want all kinds of feedback and some push-back so that you can create something excellent. A collaborator who says that something is okay is simply saying that they don’t have a strong opposition to the idea. They may not love it, but it’s not worthwhile enough to improve.

You may think that you’re being nice when you label things as okay, but you’re not doing anyone any favors. “Okay” can be downright dishonest if you don’t like an idea that much, but at the very least, it is not helpful. A person who comes to you with an idea would love new insights or constructive feedback. It already takes so much to ask for feedback. Don’t deprive someone who values your opinion of the perspective that you could offer.

Maybe you are nervous that you’ll offend someone. Giving actual feedback may feel risky, but when someone asks for it, honesty is the best policy. When you make a non-committal remark like, “It’s okay,” you’ve revealed your overly cautious mindset.

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Give concrete feedback instead when you want to say “okay”

“Okay” isn’t helping your communication skills. Erase it from your vocabulary, and work on offering your true opinion. It may take some practice to feel good about this new way of expressing yourself, but your friends and colleagues will appreciate your honesty. For example:

“How’s the article?”

“The ideas in this article are average. Try to use more exciting subheadings and provide some attention-grabbing visual elements so that readers will want to keep reading it.”

“How’s the candidate?”

“She passed our initial evaluation, and her philosophy aligns with our core values, but I’m not sure if she will be able to keep up in our fast-paced environment. It took her longer than expected to complete her test.”

For both of those questions, “OK” would have been way too vague to be helpful. You’ll notice that in both examples, the respondent not only took a stance, but he or she also used additional information to support the opinion.

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You can say something is OK if you offer more details

Good communication requires that you include specific details when you offer your opinion. If you do end up saying that something is okay, be sure to add on to the response. It doesn’t have to be some great insight, but mentioning something can start a conversation that allows you and the other person to form a deeper connection.

“How did you like my short story?”

“It was ok. I liked the overall concept, but there were a few things I didn’t understand.”

An exchange like this could open up a conversation about how to improve the author’s work. In this case, the author trusted that the other person would give honest feedback. The conversation could continue with, “What would it take to make this outstanding? What could be done to make it better?” These additional details show the person that you are basing your opinion on your best judgement rather than issuing a default response.

Don’t accept “okay” from yourself either

If saying “okay” isn’t a good enough response to someone else’s question, it shouldn’t be the go-to answer you give to yourself either. Saying that you or something in your life is okay means that you feel adequate about it, but it doesn’t demonstrate any motivation or potential for a major breakthrough.

People are more likely to tell themselves that they’re doing okay when they’re facing big challenges or pursuing difficult goals. Sometimes this defense mechanism can make you feel better about the situation when things are overwhelming, but saying that a situation is okay doesn’t allow you to make changes or push through the task. “It’s okay,” quickly turns into, “I’ll worry about it tomorrow.” It’s a real drain on motivation.

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Remember that successful people don’t go through their lives okaying every challenge that comes their way. They tackle these things head-on and become stronger in the process. They doggedly pursue their dreams until they achieve them.

Chris Gardner wouldn’t take “okay” for an answer

You may remember his story from the film Pursuit of Happyness, but in case you don’t know it, it is a story about never giving up. Gardner started out selling medical supplies, but that didn’t pay the bills. He wanted to become a stockbroker, but he didn’t have the necessary training or social connections to get his foot in the door.[1]

Things got worse before they got better, and pretty soon, Gardner was a homeless single dad who was barely getting by. Through his resourcefulness, he was able to land a spot in a training program that would ultimately lead him to becoming a stock broker. Today Gardner’s net worth is $60 million, but it wouldn’t have been possible if he had merely accepted having doors slammed in his face.

Say “okay” when you don’t care

“Okay,” is a fine response when you don’t care about something. Use it when you are trying to save time, or when you don’t want to engage in discussion.

  • “What do you think about that guy’s shirt?” “It’s okay.”
  • “I may be 2 minutes late to the meeting because I have another meeting right before that.” “It’s okay.”
  • “How do you feel about the remake of that movie?” “It’s okay.”

In these cases, the person doesn’t need feedback, and you don’t have much interest in continuing the conversation.

But for things that you do care, remember it’s okay to say something besides “OK”. You are capable of giving useful feedback and having opinions. It’s our ability to grow when we work together that leads to innovation. Don’t hide your greatness behind an answer as simplistic as “okay.”

Reference

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Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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