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 Award-winning business author and broadcaster

Leadership trainer and coach

Keynote speaker

  • Writer's pictureAudrey Tang

When life gives you lemons - can you always "make lemonade"?

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

"Look on the bright side"

"Find the silver lining"

"Make lemonade"

These are common saying we may use with ourselves and others to give us a "pep talk" or a "pick me up"when things aren't going our way.

As a coach and trainer I'm always of the belief that you have the internal resources to be able to generate positivity or resilience to bring you through tough times, but I never lose sight of the fact that you may need support trying to access them - and that this is what takes time.

This difficulty - accessing those resources - is something that naturally positive people struggle with understanding in others. As such, it is also something which can be both invalidating and unhelpful especially when randomly offered as unsolicited advice eg "Oh, it'll be fine - look on the bright side..." no matter how well-meaning the intention.

One thing we need to remember comes from Linehan's (1993) approach to using Dialectical Behaviour Therapy "You need sugar to make lemonade, and sometimes people do not have much of that."

When we - whether coaches, therapists, or friends - struggle to understand why we may seem to be able to get that lemonade flowing faster than someone else, it may go a lot deeper than simply the act of "being positive."

Positive people may have built up resilience over the years. They may have a strong support network whom they trust and can go to for help at any time. They may have their own desire to just pick up again and go for it independently. Some people may not have had that - or may not perceive it as such. When they don't know they have sugar, lemonade seems an impossible task.

Perhaps a little patience is in order.

Rather than offering an invalidating response "Look on the bright side" or "It'll all work out", remember to that person - their experience and outlook means, to them, that it may not.

I'm not saying intervene - even the simplest coaching questions are no substitute for professional help when someone is struggling with depression or anxiety - or other mental health issues which can result in negative thinking, but perhaps it will make us stop and think for a moment before offering our next platitude. Sometimes saying "I'm really sad you feel that way at the moment", will be more welcomed, and more helpful than "It'll be ok".

Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience For quick tips and tools: click for SKILL PILL and Q&A videos and here for Media appearances. Twitter/IG @draudreyt


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