“Been There, Done That” – What These Four Words Really Mean & Why You Should Consider Never Saying Them Ever Again

I absolutely hate it when I hear people say, “Been there, done that.” There are so many things to dislike about the expression… and here’s why I suggest you remove it from your vocabulary:

While the phrase, “Been there, done that” is an expression used to signal that one has been in a similar situation before, it is (more frequently than not) used to say that whatever the other person is saying or experiencing is nothing new to you. In other words, it’s kind of a back-handed way of saying that you don’t care.

man hitting himself in the head

As a travel writer, I hear this all the time. I’ll post a photo or a story from my travels in some location around the world (or I’ll share something that one of my friends or students has accomplished) and some idiot person will come along and say, “Been there, done that.”

This person, I realize, is just trying to make themselves feel better… or boast about their own accomplishments. But when someone shares something with you and you say, “Been there, done that” you are basically telling the person that “This isn’t interesting or important to me. I don’t care. Let’s skip this topic.” Or “I already know this.” It’s just a rude way of ending the conversation.

Blowing someone off with a “Been there, done that” statement isn’t just downright rude, it’s a statement that says a lot about you. If, for example, I post a photo from my travels and you respond by saying, “Been there, done that,” you’re actually telling me a number of different things about who you are and how you think about the world:

  1. You’ve been to the same place I have. Fantastic!
  2. Instead of asking me about my experience, you talk about yourself. You don’t care enough about me to express interest in something I am obviously interested in, passionate about, or involved with.
  3. You’re telling me you think that just because you’ve been in a similar situation, that you somehow know it all; that my experiences are exactly like your own; and that there is nothing more to learn or add to the conversation.
  4. When you say, “Been there, done that” (especially in a travel context), it demonstrates that you think of life (and travel) as some kind of one-dimensional checklist that simply gets marked off as you go along.

While I do think it’s impolite to say, “Been there, done that” in almost any situation (because it’s a terribly rude conversation ender), I think it’s even more foolish to say such a thing because it tells the world in four short words that you think you know it all, when obviously, you do not!

What do you think? Am I right about this? Or wrong? How do you feel when you hear someone say, “Been there. Done that.” Is there ever a time when it’s appropriate to say such a thing? Leave a comment below and let me know what you have to say.

Photo by: Hobvias Sudoneighm


13 thoughts on ““Been There, Done That” – What These Four Words Really Mean & Why You Should Consider Never Saying Them Ever Again

  1. Malcolm Cragg says:

    I agree totally with your response to “been there,done it”all experiences are unique.I ride to Brighton at least 10 times a year,never on one journey could I say btdi.

  2. Rick says:

    You are spot-on when you say that the statement says more about its author. Travel is more than just bagging the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. It’s waking up to find an Alpine lake with a mirror image of the landscape. It’s hearing the laughter of children playing at (or in) the town fountain. It’s the breeze that caresses your face as you picnic under a huge elm tree while you taste the local cheese and bread and look out over a vineyard. It is truly a shame that a person could travel so far just to miss so much. The key to travel (and maybe to life) is the word “nuance.” Pity the shallow traveler; to neglect one’s five senses is to betray them. And oneself.

  3. W. Wade says:

    It depends on the person, I know a guy who says that a lot but he’s had a rough life so it’s just like saying “I feel your pain”. What culture a person is from and where that person learns English also is a factor. I just don’t consider it a one size fits all put down.

  4. Peter says:

    I usually follow up with the question “Really, that’s interesting and what else have you done?”. It generally turns out that is it and they have been living off that one achievement for
    many a year.

  5. Pam says:

    I agree with W Wade the tough times in life I say been there done that don’t want to do again. Like cancer been there dont want to ever want to have it again.

  6. Crys says:

    I don’t agree fully. It can sound self- centered. However, when ii use that expression, I don’t mean to disrespect or sound like I’m way ahead of the person. What i would mean is that I’ve had those experiences and when it ponders in my mind… it doesn’t sound exciting anymore for me personally because im so done with certain things. I do mention how happy i am for them and its great for them but we all have different interests and so e interests just change overtime. There should be a better expression though as “been there done that”. I could see it offendinf people. But people should not be offended if they see the big picture.

  7. David K says:

    You are way too sensitive. Some people use that phrase to mean “I know what you’re saying”, “I agree”, “I know, I’ve done that too”, etc. They are just keeping the conversation going, not stopping it. Your response should be, “Tell me about your experience” or “Really, what happened to you?”

    • Kg says:

      In the writer’s case, he is speaking of people that are comparing his adventures with their own adventures. Also the tone matters. I believe what you speak of is a separate topic

  8. Bj says:

    Been there done that is just completely rude and thoughtless..
    It’s a bad attitude and totally disrespectful…. just look at the phrase…. it’s not going into detail it doesn’t care about the person and sounds like slang it just cutting it as an English language phrase .
    Rude rude rude!!
    I’m thinking that people who say that, need to get a life … obviously as according to them …. they have Been there and Done that !!

  9. Sandra says:

    I dislike it, but not as much as: “oh, my bad”. What does that even mean? Is it an admission? It’s certainly NOT an apology, as some might insinuate.

  10. Cynthia M. Rodriguez says:

    Yes, agree 100 percent. In fact, anytime someone makes that comment on anything I post online, I delete it. It’s not the energy I want for my life so it gets removed real quick. Done and done, hun.

  11. Esther says:

    The words, “been there, done that” sometimes reveals an attitude. I am concerned about a “been there, done that” attitude. Asides arrogance and/or rudeness, it shows a lack of interest in the new things life has to offer. There are always fresh insights and perspectives to even old experiences, so when you close your mind to them by saying, “been there, done that”, it is sad. Sad because you are refusing to learn and grow, which ultimately leads to death-whether physical or otherwise. No matter where you have been or what you have done, there is so much more out there. Open your mind to fresh perspectives and really live!

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