As I communicate with those in my business network, I have the tendency to find and repeat certain phrases. I sometimes get stuck in a rut (see…there’s one right there) and communicate with a lack of thoughtfulness and creativity.
According to Jeff Haden, a bestselling author and columnist for Inc. Magazine, most of us struggle with this issue. We overuse phrases that sound good, but are void of sensible thought. While our listeners don’t cover their ears, they certainly get sick of hearing overused phrases!
In a recent post on LinkedIn, he provided 10 common examples of these overused phrases that all of us should stop using. Also, Jeff provides some entertaining commentary on what these clichés really communicate to our listeners.
Here are my favorites from Jeff’s list:
"Work smarter, not harder."
What happens when you say that to me?
One: You imply I'm stupid. Two: You imply whatever I'm doing should take a lot less time and effort than it does. And three: After you say it, I kinda hate you.
If you know I could be more efficient, tell me how. If you know there's a better way, show me how. If you think there's a better way but don't know what it is, say so. Admit you don't have the answer. Then ask me to help you figure it out.
And, most importantly, recognize that sometimes the only thing to do is to work harder. So get off your butt and help me. But don't just tell me to work smarter -- that doesn't help at all.
"It just wasn't meant to be."
Um, no. Fate had nothing to do with it. Something went wrong. Figure out what went wrong and learn from it.
"It just wasn't meant to be..." only places responsibility elsewhere.
"Let's figure out what we can do next time," is empowering -- and places the responsibility where it should be: on you.
"Do it now and ask for forgiveness later."
If that's your credo, you're not a bold, daring risk taker; you're lazy and self-indulgent. Good ideas are rarely stifled. People like better; if they don't like your idea, the problem usually isn't them, it's you.
Instead of taking the easy way out, describe what you want to do. Prove it makes sense. Get people behind you.
Then whatever you want to do has a much better chance of succeeding.
"Failure is not an option."
This phrase is often used by a leader who gets frustrated and wants to shut down questions about a debatable decision or a seemingly impossible goal: "Listen, folks, failure is simply not an option." (Strikes table or podium with fist.)
Failure is always possible. Sometimes it's an inevitability. Just because you say it isn't doesn't make it so.
Don't reach for a platitude in the face of criticism or resistance. Justify your decision. Answer the hard questions.
If you can't, maybe your decision isn't so wise after all.
"Let's not reinvent the wheel."
Because hey, your wheel might turn out to be a better wheel, which means my wheel wasn't so great.
And we can't have that.
To read the rest of Jeff’s list (there are a total of 10 clichés), check out his entire LinkedIn posting.
After reading this, I’m inspired to be more articulate in my day-to-day communication. If I value the people around me, it makes sense to leave the clichés behind and put more thought into how I’m interacting.
Here’s to raising the bar on our business communication! Yes, that’s a joke.