Stop with Your “Challenging Times” Nonsense

“It can be difficult to know how to stay connected with customers in these challenging times,” begins a typical email wanting to sell me something. <delete>

Challenging times. In a time of crisis. Difficult times. Probably a few other variations.

Okay, right now we have a global pandemic and a highly disruptive societal response to it. It looks bad. It’s almost certainly not as bad as it appears, but maybe it is. But these phrases make me want to throw stuff. I get sick of them somewhere around the first time I hear them whenever there is anything notably bad going on.

Worse is that some people use them basically all the time. It’s like asking a real estate agent about buying or selling a house. If you’re buying, it’s always a great time to buy. Market’s up? A great time to buy! Market’s down? A great time to buy! If you’re selling, just swap in “sell” for “buy” and you’re good to go. (How does an agent pull this off with someone looking to sell one house and buy another? I have to ask someone.)

This is what bugs the heck out of me about it: All times are challenging.

Yes, some times are more challenging that others. I had a near-daily habit of breakfast at my favorite diner, usually at the same table with the same waitress. (I love Nix, she’s great!) It’s been weeks and I don’t like it. No, I’m not in a hospital desperately clinging to life on a ventilator. It’s not that kind of challenge.

But I have always had challenges. Sometimes it’s how to pay the rent next month. Maybe it’s a difficult situation with an employee, or a colleague, or a client. Kids aren’t exactly well-behaved creatures every day. There’s always something. And if I ran out of challenges, I would go out and find more stuff to do that comes with challenges. Wouldn’t you? Isn’t that what humans do?

So I want people to stop presenting their stuff like somehow this is the only time there’s ever been a challenge, so of course I need them. Is it just me? Is this just another “Get off my lawn!” moment?

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