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The 7-Word Phrase That Can Destroy Any Relationship

Navigating trust and action in partnerships.

The phrase "Don't worry; we will work it out" can be a double-edged sword in partnerships, whether it's a romantic relationship, a business collaboration, or a friendship. While it's often intended to reassure and provide hope in challenging times, its repeated use without meaningful action can erode trust and undermine the partnership.

Following are three examples of how "Don't worry; we will work it out" erodes trust and harms relationships.

False Reassurance

David has some impulsive spending habits. As a charismatic car sales professional, he basks in glory during those times when he has strong sales numbers. When his sales figures dip, however, he gets quiet and says, "I don't want to talk about it" to his supportive girlfriend, Bridget.

David wants to move in with Bridget in a new luxury apartment. He pitches Bridget with: "Think how nice this place is and, by doing this together, all the money we'll save. And, by the way, babe, my sales figures are hot lately!"

Bridget then brings up concerns over monthly expenses, knowing that David has high credit card debt. David responds with, "Don't worry; we will work it out" which brings Bridget temporary relief and comfort. However, when their problems persist and worsen as David fails to take concrete steps to address his financial struggles, his reassurances start to feel hollow and Bridget questions the sincerity behind his words, leading to doubt and frustration.

Lack of Accountability

Emily and Alex, both pharmacists, met at a regional healthcare convention. They became friends and discovered they were both aspiring entrepreneurs. Emily was impressed with Alex's seeming can-do attitude. Alex saw Emily as a creative genius.

A friendship ensued and some months later, while having a casual dinner together, they hatched a business idea to create a new type of virtual platform for connecting pharmacists to pharmacies and patients. Alex and Emily were now buzzing (in person and with enthusiastic texts to each other) about the potential options for the name of their new business. Further, they liberally exchanged fantasies about breaking free of their employment at retail pharmacies. They yearned to become partners in an entrepreneurial venture.

As is the case with many new business startups, Emily and Alex had to address growing questions about the roles they would each take and how they would assess market feasibility, budget considerations, promotional efforts, deadlines for prospective deliverables, and questions related to raising capital.

Both Emily and Alex started to notice their friendship/business partnership feeling a lot of strain as each avoided serious discussion of these crucial specifics. Instead of facing issues head-on and taking responsibility for finding solutions, they relied on each others' empty promises of resolution—without actively engaging in problem-solving.

Communication Breakdown

James and Tony, longtime friends bonded by their shared love for softball, excitedly took on the task of organizing their neighborhood's annual league. However, as they delved into the planning process, their once-seamless communication began to unravel.

James, a meticulous planner, insisted on sticking to a strict schedule and detailed logistics, while Tony, who has a more laid-back nature, repeatedly said, "Don't worry; we will work it out," prioritizing fun over structure.

Their conflicting viewpoints led to heated debates over everything from team formations to game schedules, causing tension to rise between them. League participants felt caught in the crossfire when asking James or Tony questions because the response was typically "I don't know; go ask Tony (or James)."

Frustrated by their inability to see eye-to-eye, James and Tony found themselves at a crossroads, unsure if their friendship could withstand the strain of their differing perspectives on how to run the league.

Final Thoughts

In essence, while offering reassurance and optimism is helpful in any partnership, it's equally important for partners to back up their words with meaningful action and genuine effort to address challenges. Otherwise, the overuse of "Don't worry; we will work it out" can gradually erode trust, communication, and accountability, ultimately leading to the deterioration of the partnership itself.

©Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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