It’s the simplest of words, made up of two letters (or four, depending on the style you use, so we’ll use both in this post.)
But it’s also a powerful one, for many reasons, particularly because of its versatility. And because of that, it must be handled with care.
It’s the word OK.
OK is described in the dictionary to mean:
assent, agreement, or acceptance.
Each of these nuances means different things … let’s break it down a bit to see how this word can be useful in everyday conversation.
You’ve selected a caterer for the office party, but need your bosses’ approval.
Assent refers to going along with something, even if perhaps not enthusiastically.
Boss: “That’s okay with me.” She doesn’t take the time to investigate herself, so may not show much emotion about the choice.
Agreement conveys more of an enthusiastic alignment with an idea.
Boss: “I’ve heard great things about them. This is a-okay with me!”
Acceptance is when you are willing to defer to someone else and not fight a decision or opinion, even if you think it’s not the best one.
Boss: “A friend of mine had a negative experience with them, but I’ve also heard decent reviews, and the price is right, so I’ll okay this.”
How does the word “okay” allow you to stay honest?
Because the word covers a lot of situations and has more nuances than we give it credit for, it is a protective umbrella for avoiding conflict without lying.
Let’s say that you and a co-worker have differing opinions and approaches about life. You are civil with one another and can work together on neutral projects. But because she is a natural debater, when you have casual discussions, she tends to bait you into an argument.
Responding with “okay” to certain statements can help you stay true to your beliefs without engaging in an unproductive discussion.
Example: Your coworker reads a news story. “(Celebrity) says we shouldn’t _______.” She knows you hold a certain view the celebrity doesn’t.
Your response (keep the tone professional): “OK.”
The “okay”: here simply means you accept the news story. The short answer conveys that you don’t intend to discuss it.
(Now the coworker like this will likely egg you on, at which point you can deflect by saying something like, “I don’t wish to discuss this” or something of that sort.)
But here’s where I caution you – “ok” can also be used sarcastically, arrogantly or in anger. I was reminded of this by people who participate in my Question of the Day (QOTD) on Facebook, when I ran this word by them. Be careful to use it wisely, not flippantly.
I am not suggesting you never civilly discuss important matters, that you squash your feelings or feedback, or that you go along with things you shouldn’t. However the word “OK” can be a helpful initial deflector that allows you to still be honest and, hopefully, to avoid unnecessary conflict, provided you use it well.
I hope that unpacking the word “okay” has been helpful to you today.
Was it okay with you?