Listen to Yourself

Listen to Yourself


Recently I attended a dinner function with a dozen colleagues. The venue was lovely, the company was engaging, and the food was delicious. Our server was attentive and efficient. She had only one fault. Every time someone ordered an item or asked her something, her response was “absolutely.” By the end of the three hours, her “absolutely” became absolutely annoying.

The word “absolutely” also has caught on with tv and online reporters who now use it (in place of “well” or “that’s right”) to initially respond to an interviewer’s questions. Other overused words are “unprecedented” and “amazing.” We often hear the President call someone or something “amazing,” and ii’s not unusual for him to use the word several times in one sentence or Tweet.

Another overused and grating phrase is “no problem.” While standing in line at the grocery store the other day I listened to the check-out clerk say “no problem” a dozen times. Most often it was his response when a customer said “thank you.”  This sounded like that customer shopping there had been a problem of some sort.

Some phrases even give hints to a person’s generation. “Cool,” “chill,” “bummer,” “rad,” “no sweat,” “totally,” “what’s up,” “fam,” “bestie,” big rip,” and “I’m woke” are quick examples.

Workplaces and employees also have pet phrases. The office “go-getter” might respond with “on it,” the office encourager might say “let’s go get ’em” when trying to motivate others, and the boss might use a terse demand like “fix this,” or the common evasion, “I’ll think about it.”

Consider for a moment what phrases you most use (or overuse). Are they phrases your co-workers from all generations understand? Are they actually the best way to communicate?  Do they communicate what you mean? For example, if that report you worked so hard on came back from your supervisor with the notation “good to go,” on it, does that seem sufficient? Or would you feel differently if she had written, “Really excellent report”?

Many of us aren’t aware of our pet phrases. For fun, at the next gathering of your closest co-workers, ask them what phrases you use most often. You might be surprised (even embarrassed?) by what you hear.  Or you may realize that you are labeling or dating yourself.

Once you know your offending phrases, you will start hearing them yourself and that will encourage you to use then less, avoid them altogether, or substitute other, more appropriate, vocabulary. And, while you are at it, get rid of some of the most annoying phrases we hear every day: “really,” “very,” and, “you know.” Will this help you look and sound more professional? Absolutely.

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