We’ve all witnessed it. The eye roll quickly followed by a collective sigh. The moment a senior manager utters a phrase carefully selected from an ever growing list of business jargon. We’ve all been there.
But why are words that create such a negative reaction being thrown around with carefree abandon? And what do they even mean?
Now, call me cynical but having been on the receiving end of a barrage of metaphors on more than one occasion, I have often found myself wondering if it is in fact a language created purely to disguise a lack of knowledge on the subject at hand. Is it just me that feels intellectual inadequacy as a result, while the speaker sleeps soundly knowing their reputation for being wise and worldly is firmly rooted?.
Karen Friedman, author of Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners, says that people use these terms to sound smart and credible. A plausible theory. And if it is correct, it is backfiring spectacularly.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival saw members of an audience shout out their favourite phrases to a mixture of laughter and groans. And books are even being written about this strange language that has embedded itself into our culture.
Writers Jamie Jauncey and John Simmons have written a book called Room 121, where they share their view that business communication needs to be more human.
“Business has lost its way with language,” says Jamie. “It’s lost its personality – that’s the big problem – therefore it doesn’t make a good connection with its audiences. It’s long-winded, it’s alienating, it’s impersonal. It uses a lot of abstractions and it’s just difficult language to work with and it isn’t very effective in terms of good communication.”
And I have to say I wholeheartedly agree. We are in an age where communication is key. And the last time I checked, communication involved not only the imparting of information but the understanding.
So the next time you reach for your low hanging fruit, while touching base with a colleague to make sure that everyone is on the same page about an out of the box idea — don’t!