What are the most annoying platitudes?

There are things people say when they’re trying to help but because they use a platitude it only make you feel worse. Here’s a list of the most annoying platitudes people say. What phrases and sayings do you hear in that only make you feel worse despite the person’s intentions? Or sayings that are patently false, despite the encouraging tone they are often said with.

The one platitude that applies to most of these platitudes is that talk is cheap. Sincerity requires more than simply lifting something from a greeting card. Some of these are cliches, others are aphorisms, it’s true, but they’re all used for similar reasons and can be equally irritating. It’s also interesting to note how many of them conflict with each other.

Here’s a list from the comments so far:

  • There’s no I in Team (what about healthy teams that appreciate constructive individuality?)
  • Good things come to those who wait
  • It was meant to be (then why did we bother trying to make it not be?)
  • The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results (sometimes you have to do the same exact thing many times to get the result you want – it’s called practice)
  • Time heals all wounds (how about losing a limb?)
  • Such is life
  • Forgive and forget
  • Everything happens for a reason (including suffering and early death?)
  • People are our most important asset
  • It is what it is
  • What the mind can conceive, it can achieve
  • Winners never quit
  • What doesn’t kill me will only make me stronger
  • I don’t want a team of champions, I want a champion team. (Note that there is an I in “champion team”)
  • Teamwork to make the Dream work
  • “C’est la vie”
  • Hard work always pays off
  • God has a plan for you
  • Great minds think alike
  • Money can’t buy happiness
  • Live each moment like it’s your last (not very pleasant)
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try try again (maybe you should try elsewhere)
  • Follow your passion
  • Follow your bliss (what if mine is cocaine?)
  • That’s just my personal opinion
  • Let’s not reinvent the wheel
  • It’s not rocket science
  • It’s all good
  • What goes up, goes down
  • After the storm the sun will shine
  • Don’t assume – it makes an ASS out of U and ME
  • Don’t be sad because it’s over, be glad that it happened
  • Love means never having to say you’re sorry (Then please don’t love me)
  • We are where we are
  • What goes around comes around
  • What’s done is done
  • Waste not want not
  • It has to be somewhere (as if this helps you find something that’s lost)
  • Nice guys finish last
  • Go with the flow
  • Only dead fish go with the flow
  • No offense, but…
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day
  • Work smarter, not harder
  • There’s no I in team
  • Life doesn’t give you things you can’t handle (depends on what life gives you, doesn’t it?)
  • You’re as young as you feel
  • Age is just a number
  • It’s just software
  • We’re all in this together
  • Everything always works out in the end
  • Time heals all wounds
  • We’ll all be laughing about this soon
  • It’s doesn’t matter if you win or lose, only that you try
  • Tomorrow is another day
  • It could be worse
  • You are what you eat
  • It’s neither here nor there
  • Think outside the box
  • It will all look better in the morning
  • Take the lemons and make lemonade
  • The best things in life are free
  • It wasn’t meant to be
  • Better to have loved and lost…
  • That’s for me to know and you to find out
  • Better late than never
  • With all due respect
  • The road to hell is paved with good intentions (so I should have bad intentions then? is that how the road to heaven is paved?)
  • Gossip is the devil’s radio
  • Laugh and the world laughs with you
  • People regret the things they didn’t do
  • Beauty is only skin deep
  • You can’t judge a book by it’s cover
  • Work hard, play hard
  • Only the good die young
  • All’s fair in love and war
  • All men are created equal
  • There are plenty more fish in the sea
  • The more things change, the more they stay the same
  • It’s the darkest just before dawn (have you seen a dawn?)
  • Fail harder
  • Perception is reality (except when your perception is very bad)
  • you can be anything that you want to be
  • Patience is a virtue
  • I’m sorry that’s not what you want to hear
  • This will hurt me more than it hurts you (well lets switch places and find out)
  • The customer is always right
  • If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen (maybe we can make the kitchen better?)
  • Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm
  • Be careful what you wish for
  • With great power comes great responsibility
  • Just think about how much worse other people have it
  • God never gives us more than we can bear (see death, misery, history of suffering)

What comes to mind? Leave a comment (240+ already have below). Thanks.

327 Responses to “What are the most annoying platitudes?”

  1. kim

    I hate it when people use platitudes on me as much as the next person. Especially when I feel really down. So I don’t use them on other people. But I use them on myself quite often when I’m in a bad place but trying to get out of it. If I really feel it, and it succinctly describes how I feel, then I use it.

    “That which does not kill you only makes you stronger,” is one i use quite frequently to describe myself when someone comments on the horrific things that have happened to me in the past. And if someone asks why I keep cooking a meal that wasn’t that great the last time I cooked it (not the definition of insanity because I change an ingredient or two every time :P), then I’ll say “If at first you don’t succeed…” It will often make one of my long stories short, which most people really want.

    Bottom line: if the platitude fits, wear it! (I really hate that one!)

    Reply
  2. Frank Farina

    What about platitudes couched as key learning outcomes in the typical liberal arts curriculum justification? for example, ‘education focused by engagement with big questions, both contemporary or enduring’? or, ‘civic knowledge and engagement at the local and global level’? or a wheel of outcomes-curriculum-pedagogy-assessment-outcomes-etc.

    Reply
    1. Graeme Land

      As someone who spent (too) many years lecturing in HE in the UK I went through all the fads and fashions, at one point, (I think it is still the case) we had to list our learning outcomes for the module we were teaching. Mine was: The student will know a great deal more about this subject than before they took this module, a) provided they attend regularly, b) contribute in seminars regularly and c) read at least some of the essential reading list……..otherwise they won’t achieve their learning outcomes and will fail the module! Needless to say I was asked to re-write it!

      Reply
  3. Avron

    Practice makes perfect!

    Nonsense. Practice makes better!!

    Reply
  4. Scott Berkun

    “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” ~George Eliot

    Reply
  5. Jon Heider

    “Life isn’t fair.” and “It’s a cold, cruel world.” True, but sometimes I think people use these facts as excuses to be lazy and complacent and not do what they can to make the world a better place.

    Reply
  6. Kirk Nyman

    I’m agreed that there are many annoying platitudes that I avoid but many of those examples I use from time to time when the circumstance seems appropriate and I feel it’s true.

    Reply
  7. Gordon

    “They are in a better place.”

    My child died and people said this to me. Better than being with me?

    Reply
  8. Bish

    “Time heals all wounds (how about losing a limb)?”

    Well, the wound would eventually heal. The platitude doesn’t say anything about getting back what you lost.

    On a side note, the “customer is always right” one is my least favorite on the list D: D: D: jbaeja;ifaj;lkeja; whoever came up with that one clearly has never worked retail XD

    Reply
    1. Richard Anthony

      “Time heals all wounds,” says the axiom; but a punster may retort, “Time wounds all heels.”

      Reply
  9. Tim_S

    “Computers never make mistakes.” (So…. if a computer glitch changes the expected output, how is that different from a person who makes a mistake due to a short-term brain malfunction?)
    “History Repeats Itself” (An illogical variation of “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”)
    “It says so in the bible” (especially annoying when the quote preceding this comes from Shakespeare or some other philosophical work other than the bible)

    Reply
  10. Donna

    Insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results…..This is not a platitude in my opinon. The explanation cited does not fit the definition…..Practice means you do the same thing over to achieve the same results…..not EXPECTING different results.

    Reply
    1. wafflekoala

      You don’t practise expecting to get worse or stay just as good as you are today. Getting better at something can often be unexpected. Not only in the rate of improvement, but the moment of improvement.

      Has anything ever “clicked”? By that I mean suddenly became clear or felt right? We can hope to get better, but no matter how hard I try, I may never be able to be a chess master.

      I can practise and expect a different result tomorrow, that doesn’t mean it will or won’t happen, but I can expect a different result and be disappointed.

      “I thought I’d be better at this by now, I’ve been practising for years!” can be said by someone learning to play an instrument for instance. That sentence implies expecting a different result from the same actions.

      Which means you do, in fact, practise expecting different results, which in turn means that the definition of insanity is not “doing the same thing over and over expecting different results”.

      Thus, the statement is a platitude.

      Reply
  11. Helena

    To me, and every other divorcee, “At least you have the kids.” NOOOO. I still have to deal with my kids’ father. I woulda had kids with someone else, not THESE kids but still. No to “At least you have the kids.”

    Reply
  12. Richard Anthony

    A very nice list, which contains some good old saws I never heard before. If you’re into such linguistic twists–and turns of phrase–check out “Would You Mind Repeating That?”–a new compendium of more than 15,000 well-known and oft-used expressions, most of which will be familiar to you but probably some that will be new in your lexicon and ready to go “trippingly on the tongue”: amzn.to/1DAtTvo

    Reply
  13. pepe nero

    Well, after all is said and done, and the dots connected, the bottom line is that platitudes and related-suck.

    Reply
  14. Linda

    My husband just died, and a good friend said, “When god shuts a door, he opens a window.” What does that even mean?

    Reply
    1. June

      Linda, I don’t know what that’s supposed to be saying but I don’t think that would have provided much comfort in your situation! I hope you are healing.

      Reply
    2. RJ

      I don’t mean to disrespect anyone but the cliche annoys the heck out of me. I my mind though when God shuts a door God shuts it because we have offended God. And God opens that window to give us the free will to jump out of it. The ultimate sin of self-murder is nothing compared to the sin which landed us in this hell on earth.

      When my mother died in 2006 (10 years ago this May 21st.) I was alone in the world with mental illness, and all I have done is screw up. I get cliches all the time. like “your time hasn’t come yet” “the sun will come out tomorrow” and the real kicker “you have to love yourself before anyone can be expected to love you.”

      Thing is God allowed the mental illness to come into my life, God can only take it away. But the fact that I am 56 and falling apart and everyone tells me I am still “young” bugs me too.

      I feel for anyone who has lost a loved one, a loved mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife or significant other. But I am just saying is that life is that vale of tears one prayer in the Catholic lexicon gets right. Buddha tells us Life is suffering if we are not on the path to enlightenment. Who among is on that path? Only it seems the great souls like Merton and Gandhi. Life is suffering because we let it cause us suffering but no one is telling any of us what the secret of letting go is.

      They just say let go and let God as if that is possible or this too shall pass. What worse is that in the midst of angst and loss someone tells us that we’ll be okay.

      Fact is it never stops hurting. And if God really does love us as Jesus said, why is there so much suffering in the world? And why do innocent and good people die before their time?

      I give up.

      Reply
  15. Eli

    How you do anything is how you do everything.

    I shudder to think what life would be like if that were true!

    Reply
  16. Henry

    Read between the lines. (…and in my opinion you get nothing.)

    Reply

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