What People Mean When They Say It Is What It Is

Marsha Maung
6 min readMay 15, 2020

‘It is what it is’. The phrase sounds comforting, easy-going, and even relaxed. There’s no fighting to be done. But here, let’s dive into another potential meaning of this phrase.

I’ve had the chance to work with a German-based company in Malaysia and the manager was a man who was upbeat, sometimes optimistic, clear-cut, and I, at times, would also describe him as sly.

Everyone in the office knew and sometimes teased him about his popular saying, ‘It is what it is’ and I honestly thought nothing about it when I first met him. I thought, ‘I guess he’s got things figured out and is 100% sure of what he is doing with his work and life. His ducks are just in a row. There’s nothing wrong with THAT.’

A Hidden Meaning of ‘It is What it is

Jerry Seinfeld on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Youtube
Youtube: Jerry Seinfeld on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE (from home) Late Night show

I recently saw a video of Jimmy Kimmel interviewing Jerry Seinfeld for his latest Netflix venture, 23 Hours to Kill, and one of the clips shown during the segment was one of Seinfeld’s delivering a side joke of people who often said things like ‘Business is Business’, ‘A deal’s a deal’, ‘It is what it is’, ‘Rules are rules’.

He said, ‘If you say something twice in one sentence, you can say it with much more confidence!’, he joked.

I found it funny and chuckled along with the host and guest. Until it reminded me of the man I had worked with.

Most people would first decipher it as a statement coming from someone confident about what he/she was doing. He or she has clear acceptance of the situation. But during my research, I found that some people who use this phrase a lot were sometimes inwardly saying ‘I don’t have the power to change it, so, just accept it. That’s the way the world rolls.’

I then found a Quora thread a few weeks later after digging a little into the psychology of people who used the phrase far too often.

Experts say that it’s one thing to say it off-hand as a consolation or empathy, but for people who use it in every other sentence or during presentations, it means that they lack the resources, knowledge, or ability. They also don’t care enough to try and are not willing to help see you through your problems.

“This is also the approach that enables

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Marsha Maung

Professional copywriter. Online Social Marketing consultant. Lover of books and stories. Blogger and yoga lover http://www.marshametta.com