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Improve Communication by Avoiding These Five Business Clichés
Look up “business buzzwords” or “business clichés” and you'll find article after article about these irritating, overused phrases. In fact, new ones come out each year documenting the latest crop that’s flourishing in work places across America.
In a world drowning in buzzwords, tweets and hashtags, spouting mindless clichés in the workplace may seem harmless. However, using too many professional platitudes could be more problematic than you may think.
Not only can business clichés be annoying to others who hear them day in and day out, they’re the language of laziness. When you use them, you effectively fail to focus your thoughts and really identify what you’re trying to communicate and accomplish.
Language that is “mindless” isn't also “harmless.” The risks of vague language aren’t just practical detail mix-ups between coworkers. Many of these phrases are actually actively promoting terrible morale that shoves projects and careers into stagnation. By abusing clichés, you might be projecting an apathetic and lazy attitude without even realizing it.
If you rely on trite buzzwords, then isn’t that a sign that you may be okay with status quo or, worse, may be lazy in other areas at work, as well? Whether it's true or not, that’s the message you’re broadcasting.
Here are a few the biggest clichés to avoid and why you should avoid them in your day-to-day business communication:
1. “It is what it is” is the sound of defeat. The subtext of this phrase is, “I give up.” That negativity enforces the kind of thinking that kills projects and how coworkers understand your attitude. It makes you the Debbie Downer in business clothing, and this negative attitude gets old very fast.
2. If the “low-hanging fruit” even does exist, then going after it is just bad strategy. The analogy of going after what requires less effort normalizes what is too easy and simply non-existent. Even if it does, then fruit on the top of the tree is ripest, and that's where the greatest returns for your effort will be.
3. The only thing that happens at the "end of the day" is, well, the end of the day. Referencing the elusive “end of the day” is common in politics, academics and especially business. It’s so ubiquitous that it seems to imply that it’s news that each day ends. The truth is that, because of technology, the end of the day is a myth.
These next two aren’t exactly clichés. However, they're still common phrases you should probably avoid.
4. Ditch the R word and the B word. Though they’re not the hot-button words you're likely thinking of, really and but, often exude snarkiness or bad attitude, or are just plain irritating. It’s certainly not true in every spoken instance of these little words, but when your go-to response is, “Really?” when a coworker asks for help or you’re constantly using “but” to excuse your own responsibility or knock down something (or someone) else, it can become, well, really annoying.
5. "I don't know; what do you want to do?" is a known verbal con-job. Take a look at the “Abilene Paradox,” a group dynamics phenomenon. When nobody knows what exactly they want to do, it’s likely the group will settle on a decision nobody in the group wanted at all. It’s best to stop these indecisive circles in their tracks with an assertive, “I don't want to do that.”
The bottom line is to pay attention to what you’re saying at work and what it really means. If you’ve gotten in the habit of falling back on clichés or other forms of lazy language, then you might be surprised by how much effort it takes to stop and really think about what you mean. But it’s absolutely worth making the effort.
In addition, if you're a leader, then listen to what employees constantly say. Be alert to the phrase du jour at work. It may tell you more about the people around you than you ever imagined.
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