I hate the words 'at least'. It's a terrible phrase used to demonstrate a silver lining, a small dash of positive thinking by someone else. Usually to provide comfort. Well the person uttering 'at least' can go punch themselves in the face, because there is no way that 'at least' is in any way empathetic, kind or comforting. I lost a contract recently, a three month gig turned into a four day gig when the project I'd been hired to work on didn't go through. It happens, I'm a contractor and contracting is not as stable as perm work. I accepted this might be a possibility when I formed my own company and dived right into contracting.
However, it doesn't mean I'm not bummed about losing a contract. It was with a pretty cool agency with some really interesting problems that I was keen to work on. Being let go is never ideal. So, when Zee (with all his good intentions) said 'at least you get a day off tomorrow' I actually wanted to hit him upside of the head.
Because there is no way that a day off compensates for not having a job. Saying it also completely belittles my legitimate right to be upset about losing a contract. Oh, I know you're feeling terrible, and I don't know what to say about that, actually, so here! Completely ignore all the terrible things you are feeling right now, and focus on this tiny sliver of an upside.
It's okay to feel down when something happens. It's okay to be bummed about it. Feelings are not a problem to be solved, and my feelings are not so flimsy that I'm going to be distracted, and magically feel better because I got a day off. 'At least'? 'At least' does not make me feel better, and instead I feel like I shouldn't have said anything to begin with. Why bother if all of the things I feel are going to be marginalised, and ignored?
The phrase 'At least' provides no comfort, it is not empathetic, and there is no genuine connection to be had with it's utterance, and get this, it's that connection that makes you feel better. Not a silver lining.
Instead of 'at least heres a shit silver lining', instead of trying to 'fix' a perspective, how about we just acknowledge that it happened ('Oh man, you lost your job!'), acknowledge that it's not awesome ('Dude, that sucks'), that you'd rather it hadn't happened ('I'm really sorry to hear that'). At the heart of it, that's all that really needs to be said. It's okay to feel what you're feeling, and I recognise that you're not feeling great.
Acknowledgement > 'at least' x a billion.
Because at the heart of it, no empathetic response ever begins with 'at least'.
Have you heard of Brené Brown? I hadn't, until I (just now) did a Google search for the phrase 'at least is not empathetic'. She actually says a lot of what I just said (which was great for my own validation. I'm not the only one who thinks a lot of this!). However, she said it much more eloquently than than I did:
So, 'at least'. It's not ideal, let's agree to not use it to silver line anything, cool? Cool.