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How do you wish someone "good luck" without being fake?
December 19, 2012 12:18 PM   Subscribe

How do you wish someone "good luck" without being fake?

In many situations (read: friends taking finals), I'd like to wish people "good luck", but something like: "Good luck! I know you're gonna do well!" or "Good luck! You're going to kill it!" comes across as fake.

I mean, let's face it, when you hear that in the midst of a stressful period, you're probably thinking, "Ugh, I know he's just trying to be nice, but he doesn't know that I'm going to do well. I have to say thanks anyway."

And people pretend that they're thankful and secretly get a little annoyed.

So what kind of quasi-pep talk can you give to a friend, that's more than "good luck!" but doesn't come across as fake or as an empty gesture?
posted by suburbs to Human Relations (24 answers total)
 
You're overthinking this. People don't get annoyed to be wished good luck, everyone knows it's a phatic statement of good intentions.
posted by zadcat at 12:23 PM on December 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


And people pretend that they're thankful and secretly get a little annoyed.

I would venture to say that people don't really care because they are more concerned about concentrating on this stressy thing than pleasantries. In fact, anything more than a simple "good luck!" would be holding them up from actually getting things done and that would be annoying.
posted by griphus at 12:26 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"And people pretend that they're thankful and secretly get a little annoyed."

I guess some people feel that way. Certainly you seem to think so. I interpret people saying "good luck" as they're showing support and hoping things go well. That's a nice thought.

I don't think they're actually imparting good luck upon me, or declaring that things will go well, just as I wouldn't think they're hoping the crowd falls over dead spontaneously when they say something like "I hope you knock'em dead." It's just people being supportive.
posted by empyrean at 12:32 PM on December 19, 2012


Say good luck and skip the fake platitudes. Nothing wrong with wishing someone luck. "I know you're gonna do well" and "You're going to kill it!" are the fake part. Depending on the circumstances there could be other things to add such as "you deserve it" - if its something they've worked hard on.
posted by missmagenta at 12:36 PM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is there a chance that this is how you feel and that you're projecting, or maybe you're projecting your own sense of insecurity? When someone wishes me good luck, I take their intentions at their word, and don't think about it any more than that. When I wish someone good luck, I mean it - I hope that things go well, both in the ways they can control and in the ways they can't.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 12:37 PM on December 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


"I hope it goes well!"

"Break a leg!"

"It will be over soon!"
posted by medusa at 12:37 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you mean it, it's not fake. That's all you can do.
posted by cmoj at 12:45 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, let's face it, when you hear that in the midst of a stressful period, you're probably thinking, "Ugh, I know he's just trying to be nice, but he doesn't know that I'm going to do well. I have to say thanks anyway."

And people pretend that they're thankful and secretly get a little annoyed.
If this is how you feel when people wish you good luck, I think you are in the minority. I would not worry that people are going to resent your expression of good wishes, and if they do, I would claim that that is their problem, not yours.
posted by dfan at 12:58 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


When accompanied by a firm handshake and determined eye contact, an even-toned "Good Luck." is nothing to scoff at or belittle, it's the opposite of empty.

I've seen my grandfather bring someone's veneer of composure and propriety to crumbling ruin with just those things.

Be a woman or a man of your word, say what you mean and mean what you say, it matters.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:59 PM on December 19, 2012


Also, if you don't like saying "Good luck! I know you're gonna do well!", you can just say "Good luck!". There's nothing wrong with that.
posted by dfan at 12:59 PM on December 19, 2012


It does irk me when people say stuff like "I know you'll do well", the first thing that comes to my mind is "no you don't". Same when people answer in relationship questions "you deserve better" - I instantly think "you don't know know that, she could be a crazy serial killer or kitten torturer, then I think, we're only getting one side of this story..." but I think I'm in the minority, otherwise shallow platitudes wouldn't be so common. I try to avoid them because they annoy me, I assume other people who feel the same do too so if it annoyed everyone, no-one would do it. I just have to remind myself that its the sentiment that counts not the semantics.
posted by missmagenta at 1:01 PM on December 19, 2012


It never seems fake to me when someone makes it specific. Like if you're interviewing for a job, and they say, "Good luck -- you're so good at customer service/IT troubleshooting/whatever, I know you'll do great!"
posted by jabes at 1:01 PM on December 19, 2012


I think you are way too concerned about this. People generally appreciate being wished good luck and don't second-guess it this much.

If I really want to make sure it comes across that I care, I look someone in the eye and smile say "good luck, NAME."

But usually I just say "Good luck with the snake-rustling! Tell me how it goes." And move on.
posted by bunderful at 1:03 PM on December 19, 2012


Perhaps say something encouraging that doesn't explicitly predict their success - "Good luck, you rock!" or "Good luck, I'm really proud of you." It's a way to show support without hinging that support on their success or failure.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 1:30 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd like to wish people "good luck", but something like: "Good luck! I know you're gonna do well!" or "Good luck! You're going to kill it!" comes across as fake.

"Good luck" means something like "may the random chaos of the universe smile upon you." That's fine. "Good luck! I know you're gonna do well!" is encouraging though indeed, bullshit because you know no such thing.

If what you want is to be sincere:

Good luck! Hope it goes really well.
Good luck! May the force be with you.
Good luck! Break a leg.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:31 PM on December 19, 2012


I sometimes find it a bit annoying when I'm stressing out about something, and someone says, "Don't worry, you'll do fine!"--I mean, I know what they mean and I know that it's my issue to deal with my nerves, but I do think it can come across as dismissive of my feelings for a person to say, "You have no reason to be stressed" when I'm feeling stressed. (Of course, this depends on who the person is and how they're expressing the sentiment.)

That said, I have never been annoyed by someone who simply wished me "Good luck" and I have been especially touched when people have expressed something along the lines of, "I know this matters a lot to you, so I'll be thinking of you [today/while you wait for the decision/during the test/whatever]. I think you're really good at [whatever]. Good luck!" I think the key is, as rabbitbookworm identifies above, not tacking on a prediction but just acknowledging that something big is coming up, and it matters to your friend, and so it matters to you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:32 PM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Good luck! I know you're gonna do well!" or "Good luck! You're going to kill it!" comes across as fake.

It's fake to predict the outcome, yes. It's not fake to say 'I don't know what will happen or even how prepared you are, but because I like you I hope that the outcome is good in whatever way you are hoping for'.

Most people shorten that to 'Good luck!'
posted by jacalata at 1:37 PM on December 19, 2012


Sorry, didn't actually address the 'more than good luck' request.

The problem is that a pep talk of more than empty platitudes requires specific knowledge of their situation. Saying 'all the time you spent studying will finally pay off!' is inappropriate if they actually didn't study much, etc. So there is no generic non-empty good luck statement you can use, and if you can't come up with a specific, you're better off sticking to just 'good luck' and variations like 'break a leg'.
posted by jacalata at 1:42 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Leave off the part that's the lie. I mean, you do actually wish them well, right? Even if you know they're going to tank the test, you don't want them to. So say "Good luck!" And leave it at that. If you're uncomfortable leaving it that short you can add something else that's truthful. "I hope it's not as hard as you think" or "We'll share our misery afterward." or "Maybe the prof will die and class will get cancelled." etc, etc.

Everyone like to hear good wishes.
posted by Ookseer at 1:43 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


For some reason I find "Best of luck" a bit less sit-up-and-beg than "Good luck." (Maybe it's years of theatre and being trained never to say "good luck.")

I also like "hope it goes well."
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:46 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have your friends told you they feel that way? Because when someone says "I know you'll do well" it actually makes me feel better because chances are I will and I was freaking out for nothing.

One thing I would suggest is, "Good luck, it'll be okay!" Because that's true. If they pass or fail, their lives will move on and they'll be okay eventually.
posted by Autumn at 3:31 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure why you (OP) feel this way about these phrases; personally, when people say those kinds of things to me, I like it. It makes me feel cared for and supported and boosts my confidence. The only time it feels fake is if the person saying it doesn't know me (in which case it doesn't bother me, I just don't really care; I take it as a pleasant social nicety and move on), or if I can tell they actually don't wish me well or don't like me. But that doesn't really ever happen.

When someone says "I know you'll do well", I usually take it as a compliment ( as in: I know you are intelligent, skilled and resourceful enough to succeed), and I'm not so literal about them not being able to predict the outcome of this specific event. It doesn't annoy me at all. It means they care about me and believe in me.
posted by windykites at 4:22 PM on December 19, 2012


I always opt for "knock 'em dead" or "give 'em hell." To me, these sound less passive; you're not wishing for some spooky force to favor them, you're wishing for them to kick ass and take names.
posted by town of cats at 8:08 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I say "I wish you the best of luck" with my sincere-face and sincere-voice. Which are genuinely sincere, which comes across.
posted by fullerenedream at 11:13 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


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