We all notice when people overuse certain words or phrases. (I love him, but as I write this somewhere Howard Stern is saying, “In other words…”)
I’m guilty too, having once carried on an all too public affair with, “That’s neither here nor there.” (In my defense I always thought it was neither here nor there.)
You probably have your own verbal tics too… but at least you’re trying to say what you mean. What’s worse is when people — especially leaders — use certain expressions to divert attention, hide what they really mean, or simply fail to do their jobs.
Like these all too common moves:
1. The Fake Agreement: Pretending to agree while expressing the opposite point of view.
Example: “I definitely see what you’re saying… but I don’t think we should take on that project.”
In fact you don’t really see what I’m saying because otherwise you would agree with what I’m saying. Beginning a sentence with, “I hear you…” is like a condescending pat on the head.
Don’t try to couch a different opinion inside a warm and fuzzy Fake Agreement. If you disagree, say so.
2. The Unsupported Closure: Ending a discussion or making a decision without backup or solid justification.
Example: “At the end of the day, we’re here to sell products.”
Really? I had no idea we’re supposed to sell products!
Unsupported Closure is the go-to move for people who want something a certain way and don’t feel like — or more likely can’t — justify why. Whenever you feel an, “At the end of the day…” coming on, take a deep breath and start over; otherwise you’ll spout inane platitudes instead of objective reasons that may actually help people get behind your decision.
Quick note: A Fake Agreement combines nicely with an Unjustified Closure: “I hear what you’re saying, but at the end of the day it’s my job to make the decision.” Win-win!
3. The Double Name: Using a person’s name twice — especially your own — in the same sentence as a way to justify unusual or unacceptable behavior.
Example: “Hey, what can I say? That’s just Joe being Joe.” (Even worse, “Hey, what can I say? That’s just me being me.”)
The Double Name is just a way to excuse behavior that wouldn’t be tolerated from others. You just being you… is you just being a jerk.
(And everyone knows it.)
4. The False Uncertainty: Pretending you’re not sure when, in fact, you are.
Example: “You know, when I think about it I’m not sure shutting down that facility isn’t actually the best option.”
Oh yes, you’re sure; you’re just trying to create buy-in or a sense of inclusion by pretending you still have an open mind… or you’re planting seeds for something you know you will eventually do.
Never say you are not sure unless you truly are not — and are willing to consider other viewpoints.
5. The First Person Theoretical: Pretending to be another person in order to explore different points of view.
Example: “Let’s say I’m the average customer. I walk in your store. I want to buy a shirt…and so on.”
You can get away with this occasionally, but more than once a year is really irritating.
Think about it. Let’s say I’m the average reader and I know someone who uses the First Person Theoretical to pretend they’re putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. And let’s say I’m thinking it’s really irritating.
And let’s say I’m thinking we should just move on… and circle back to where we started:
6. The Favorite Word: Using a word so often… that word becomes the only word anyone hears.
Not really deceptive, but still diverts attention.
For example, I had a boss who never met a sentence he couldn’t find a way to shoehorn “in other words,” “in general,” and “regarding” into. Often he could cram all three into the same sentence. I once kept track and counted thirty-seven “in other words” in four minutes. (Hey, I’m not proud.)
When you fall in love with a word or expression other people not only tire of it but they start to hear nothing else — and whatever you hoped to get across gets lost while people think, “Oh jeez. For once could he leave out the ‘that’s neither here nor there'”?
Trust me. I know.