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It is what it is

 Jim Coe It is what it is
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What does IT IS WHAT IT IS say about our attitude?

Are you hearing this phrase, “It is what it is,” (IIWII) more frequently? There’s evidence that not only has the parlance become a cliché, its ubiquity has become irritating.

Although IIWII has proven to be flexibly versatile in a wide range of conversational usage, it’s in danger of blending into trite meaninglessness. In a straw poll cast on Facebook yesterday I received responses that range from sacred to silly.

Some use IIWII as a statement of acceptance, a stoic recognition of the stark realism of the present situation. Others employ the wordage as a caution, i.e., to not over-react to what cannot be changed. OK, fair.

Our language is malleable, adaptable to many voices. Meaning varies with context.

Of course, non-verbal cues…smiles/smirks/eyerolls…as well as verbal inflection, will paint the picture the speaker intends. But even a single word, alone, stripped of verbs & modifiers, conveys a chameleon of communication. How many meanings can you assign to this single utterance? “Dude.”

So, what message do you take from IIWII? Acceptance? Realism, now let’s move on?

Frustration, as an inability to change a situation? Have you heard IIWII used as a cop-out? Perhaps as a rationalism, to disguise one’s laziness? Do you suspect the speaker is lame, as their toolbox of communication might be rusty, dented and small? Or, in a more esoteric application, on a spiritual level does the phrase indicate acceptance of one’s observation of perceived reality? I’ve heard, and used it myself in the context of :

“OK, let’s not dwell on it, let’s just move forward.”

Several Friends charged the phrase as being dismissive, i.e., “Whatever,” a rude conversation stone wall, indicative of a lack of imagination or commitment on behalf of the speaker. One woman suspects that men are more likely to IIWII than women, as she believes men might be quicker to dismiss, whereas women will talk among their network to crowd-source solutions to any present situation.

I credit my friend Elissa Schneider for planting this seed of discontent. Like myself, Elissa works within the realm of fundraising development, and we both circulate among a vibrant community of non-profit activists in Columbus. In our world, to hear IT IS WHAT IT IS is to hear tones of defeat. It displays a lack of vision, a non-innovative surrender to status quo, and a lack of leadership at a time when vision, innovation and leadership are in demand.

What about you? Can you re-frame your story with a shift in your vocabulary, by cleansing reactive phrases from your speech?

Might we move IIWII to It Was What It Was?

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