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Explanations > Behaviors > Coping > Trivializing

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?



When we are faced with a disappointment over something that is important to us, we are faced with the problem of having our expectations and predictions dashed. We may even have told other people about it beforehand, making it doubly embarrassing that we have not gained what we expected.

As a response, we make light of the situation, telling ourselves (and often other people) that it is not that important anyway, thus trivializing what was previously important.

One way that we trivialize is to make something a joke, laughing it off.


A girl rejects the advances of a boy. He tells his friends that she isn't that pretty anyway.

A friend trips up and falls on his face. He gets up laughing.

A person in a meeting is faced with a powerful counter-argument. They trivialize it by saying that it is nothing new.

I lose a lot of money gambling. I tell myself that I didn't need it anyway.


The size of discomfort is proportional to the size of the problem. Trivializing makes small something that is really big, and hence allows me to ignore it.

This is a common mechanism that is socially acceptable in many situations, particularly when we are applying it to ourselves, where it may appear to be modesty or not taking oneself too seriously.

Trivializing may also be used as an attack, making small something that others find important. This is used when that something makes us feel uncomfortable in some way such that we feel unable to cope with it just now.

So what?

Help others to cope by making light of problems -- though beware of this appearing that you are using trivialization to attack rather than help them.

If you are helping them develop, you can question and probe why they made light of the situation. You can also encourage a person to do something that they previously thought difficult by making light of it.

See also


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