Feels Like It’s Only…


“It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, Sammy, and I’m wearing Milk Bone® underwear!”

–  Norm, a character on the 1980’s sitcom Cheers, as portrayed by George Wendt

Today in the Midwest, is supposed to be about -3 degrees Fahrenheit with wind-chill-adjusted temperatures that will feel like they’re in the -30 range.  BRRRRRRR!

When we were kids, if we complained about the wind chill, our grandpa would say, “That’s all in your head!  It’s really 10 above zero, not 15-below!”

Technically, he was right.  Practically, he was wrong, because if you’re standing at the end of a 1/8th mile driveway waiting for the school bus, what it feels like becomes what it is!

The same is true of our team members, clients, and other people in our circles as it relates to their experiences.  Norm was having a rough day, and his metaphor was intended to let Sammy, the bartender, know how he felt.  And how Norm feels, or how our team members, clients, friends feel is their own reality in that moment.

“It feels like the world is ending,” says the teenager who’s just been broken up with.  “It’s only a dumb ol’ boy / girl,” we might want to say, from our seasoned, this-too-shall-pass level of wisdom.

“It feels like the coach hates me,” says the player who’s had a rough game.  “It’s only basketball, you’re a great player, you’ll be ok!” some well-intentioned person might say.

“It feels like I’m snake bit!  It feels like no matter what I try it won’t work,” says the sales pro who’s missed quota the last two months.  “It’s only a slump, you’ll be fine.” says a teammate.

Perfectly well-intentioned, the phrase “it’s only” minimizes whatever the speaker is feeling.

Here’s an idea:  Let’s drop “it’s only” from our vocabulary when someone is hurting or looking for answers, and let’s try to get inside, instead.

“Wow, that must really suck.  Do you wanna get a beer or a coffee and talk about it?”

“I’m sorry you’re feeling that way.  Is there anything I can do?  Do you want me to leave you alone, or do you want to spend some time looking at angles on this situation?”

“Dang!  You’ve always been the leading producer in the team, so it must be extra tough to hit a rough spot.  I just want you to know I am glad you shared how frustrated / hurt / angry / stumped / perplexed / scared / etc you’re feeling…”

Norm opened every appearance on Cheers with a one-liner like the one above.  It was a running joke.  When those around us tell us how they’re feeling, though, it might not be a joke.  It’s probably not a joke.  So we gotta be pretty careful before we laugh, dismiss or offer advice unless we take the time and make the effort to understand and acknowledge what it “feels like” for them.

P.S.  Advice unsolicited is advice that is best unoffered.  Just sayin’…

#leadership #coaching #b2bsales #sales #differencemaking #dailydifference #feelslike #feelings






  1. I think the P.S. might be the most powerful line in this entire blog. The best, dare I say advice, is to stop and get curious with an empathetic approach, rather than a dismissive one.

    • Speaking of “powerful,” the word dismissive is spot-on. When we brush aside the feeling, no matter how good our intentions, we’ve appeared dismissive — and that’s not a word we want in our eulogies! Well said, Amy Boyce!

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