Take the rough with the smooth (Idioms to describe dealing with problems)

by Kate Woodford​
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Readers of this blog will know that from time to time, we focus on frequent idioms. This week, we’re looking at idioms that we use to describe the way we deal with – or fail to deal with – problems and difficult situations.

Starting with the positive, if you are in a difficult situation and you take it (all) in your stride (UK)/take it in stride (US), the situation does not upset or worry you: Sarah often has problems with staff but she takes it all in her stride. Someone who weathers the storm or rides the storm is not harmed during a difficult period. You might say this of a person whose reputation is not damaged despite difficulties: For a while, the scandal threatened to destroy the president, but somehow he weathered the storm. Meanwhile, to get/come to grips with a difficult situation or task means to succeed in starting to deal with it: This is a problem that the government really needs to get to grips with.

Most people regard interviews and exams as difficult situations. A person who succeeds very easily in such a situation may be said to sail through it: She’s very impressive – I’m sure she’ll sail through the interview.

Some idioms describe a person’s attitude towards a problem rather than their success or failure in dealing with it. If you grit your teeth, you show determination in a difficult situation. (To grit your teeth literally means ‘to press your top and bottom teeth together, often in anger’): The next few weeks will be tough but he’ll just have to grit his teeth and get on with it. Someone who accepts a difficult situation, knowing that they cannot change it may be said to grin and bear it: I don’t want to do it but I don’t have much choice so I guess I’ll just have to grin and bear it. Of course, in many situations there are both good and bad aspects. To accept the difficult or unpleasant parts of a situation as well as the good parts is to take the rough with the smooth: No long-term relationship is perfect, and to some extent, you have to take the rough with the smooth.

Finally, there are few situations more difficult to deal with than the death of a person that you love. A phrase that is often used to describe the process of gradually accepting that particular sad situation is to come to terms with it: His wife died two years ago and he’s still coming to terms with it.