Between corporate jargon, business buzzwords, and all the acronyms we toss around, it can seem like we speak an entirely different language at work than in the rest of our lives. We use a lot of these terms in the interest of efficiency, but a lot can get lost in translation.
Thrive writer Stephanie Fairyington recently explored why we should abandon the question “Does that make sense?” after explaining something to a co-worker. She writes: “While it often comes from the right place — to be sure the person you’re communicating with is understanding what you’re saying — it implies that the listener doesn’t have the wherewithal to ask for clarity on his own.” Rather than this question, she suggests we ask, “What additional information on that would be helpful to you?” instead.
So we asked members of the Thrive Global community to share the common workplace buzzwords and phrases that they’ve eliminated from their vocabulary — and what we can say instead.
“It is what it is”
“I eliminated the phrase ‘it is what it is’ as it implies that nothing can be done and suggests that it’s OK to give up. Business is all about creating solutions, and I believe there’s a solution to every challenge, so I prefer to focus on asking what the best way forward is and what we can learn from the experience. As a leader or a manager, I think it’s important to lead by example and search for creative solutions instead of settling for ‘what is.’”
—Nina, business strategist, Poole, U.K.
“One buzzword that I recently abandoned is the acronym ‘ASAP.’ It stands for ‘as soon as possible,’ and is usually used to emphasize the urgency of a request. I abandoned the word because in many cases, it can exaggerate the urgency of your request, and feel pushy for the receiver. It also fails to communicate the exact time (or time limit) in which you might need an answer. So I’ve started saying this instead: ‘I’d be grateful if you could send it at your earliest convenience,’ or, ‘Can you forward the file before the close of work?’ This appears less pushy and communicates an exact time for delivery.”
—Jennifer Nagu, freelance writer and aviation professional, Lagos, Nigeria
“Wheelhouse, hacking, and influencer”
“I just engaged in a long thread on Facebook about ‘words we are over.’ Here are some of my favorites, and some viable, normal replacements:
- Replace ‘hacking’ with ‘solving’
- Replace ‘wheelhouse’ with ‘expertise’
- Replace ‘influencer’ with ‘leader’ or ‘expert’
- Replace ‘boss babe’ with ‘successful woman’
- Replace ‘manifest’ with ‘reveal’ or ‘create’”
—Niki Campbell, health coach and communications consultant, Pittsburgh, PA
“I’ve stopped saying the phrase ‘no problem’ when a client or co-worker thanks me. When we say ‘no problem,’ it indicates that it was a problem but we’re making an exception. Instead, I respond with ‘of course!’ To me, it shows that I’m glad to help and it’s a positive statement. I’m trying to set an example with my employees as well so they can follow suit.”
—Camille Sacco, branch manager and meditation instructor, Winter Park, FL
“I’ve replaced the term ‘constructive criticism’ with ‘developmental feedback.’”
—Paul Bailey, training specialist, Ontario, Canada
“Nothing says ‘‘I’m keeping something from you’ like the word ‘transparency.’ And it’s everywhere. I work to keep it out of my lexicon.”
—John R. Wall, creative services, Philadelphia, PA
“What do you think?”
“I no longer ask ‘what do you think?’ when giving myself permission to do something. As women, we have a tendency to ask permission before we do something, regardless of how capable or talented we are in regards to a task we are contemplating. I also used to be guilty of this. Now if my heart and soul guide me towards something, I just do it. I know I was drawn toward it for a reason. So instead of asking ‘what do you think?’ I now say, ‘I can’ or ‘I will’ do what I was previously mulling over or asking permission for.”
—Tanya Brown, intuitive business coach, Hoboken, NJ
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