What we got here is failure to communicate

see speak hear no evil
Credit: flickr/Charlotte Morrall

If you hate the phrase "thinking outside the box" you're not alone. This and other Meaningless Expressions, compounded by Acronymitis and Abstractionitis, make many business conversations worthless as communication tools.

Thus says Dan Pallotta in his blog "I Don't Understand What Anyone Is Saying Anymore" on the Harvard Business Review site. Add in Valley Girl 2.0 speak with the ability to "string together half-sentences devoid of any substance whatsoever," and you have a modern business communications nightmare. Many talk, few listen, and nobody understands.

Successful communications between two people in the same discipline can be tough. Throw in the constant need to communicate outside your discipline, and the chore becomes darn near impossible unless effort is made to speak clearly, avoid acronyms, and call a doorknob a doorknob, not "an innovation in residential access."

Let's fix this

In my opinion, a real expert will make sure his audience understands what he is saying and does not assume they speak in the same, self serving terms.

Marc Zazeela on hbr.com

I jumped in and asked if they could define a particular TLA that was coming up frequently. It turned out that not a single person on the call knew what it stood for.

RyanMcGreal on news.ycombinator.com

My hated phrase is 'low hanging fruit.' Having grown up in the Orange groves of So Cal, I can't believe anyone says it. Seriously? Low hanging fruit tends to be rotten, eaten by worms and mice. It's why modern orchards have no low branches. Pick high folks. Pick high!

ClaudiaC on hbr.com

WTDM? My most frequently spoken phrase in business is "What does that MEAN?". (strong emphasis on the word "mean"). Used with excessive frequency the speaker can be made to feel "stupid" for speaking in such a "foreign" manner.

Carlg on hbr.com

Works for us

I have a client who has built a marketing business around describing what she does in such a flurry of trendy words and marketing speak (content/platform/international/multi-channel) that she can literally describe her business without including any actual meaning. And people think it must be good because they don't understand what she's talking about, so they hire her. It's insanity.

Paul Horne on hbr.com
This makes me miss Better off Tedexpider on reddit.com

I remember watching some cartoon where some aliens are watching humans converse and they interrupt by saying "ritual gum flapping time is over". That's all this is: ritual gum flapping.

jrockway on news.ycombinator.com

Pots and kettles

What's frightening is that if people don't actually know what they are saying, what does that say about what they know about what they are doing?

Dan on hbr.com

I'm in engineering. We occasionally hear that thing about "exceeding customer expectations" or "just good enough isn't". There's a term for a beam that's stronger than it needs to be: "wasting steel".

1wiseguy on redidt.com

I used the word "value-add" the other day for the first time in my career because I didn't know what else to say in the circumstance. My statement was met with approval. I wanted to cry; I felt so ashamed.

Julie Beman on hbr.com

The title syntax may be suspect, but the meaning is clear. Thanks to Cool Hand Luke for one of the most useful deflaters of pompous speakers ever.

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