The Language we use

The Language we use

‘Sort of’ is such a harmless thing to say. Sort of. It’s just a filler. Sort of. It doesn’t really mean anything. But after certain things, ‘Sort of’ means everything. Like after, ‘I love you’ or ‘You are going to live.’

— Demetri Martin

The language you use can help you or harm you at work. The words you choose, the phrases you adopted along your journey, the types of things you choose to speak about – all matter.

Do you complain at work or do you show gratitude or both? Do you use Office Jargon or do steer clear? How about verbal qualifiers? Finally, do you apologize…a lot?

Gratitude vs. Complaints

The above should be obvious, but I’ve found it to be still valid. It’s so easy to complain about. It’s way more difficult to show gratitude. However, if you had a choice of people to work with on the next major initiative, would you pick someone stacked in the ‘Complaints’ line?

Office Jargon

There are so many that are missing from the above list. I hear “circle back” and “reach out” so bloody often. Thankfully, I’ve never heard, “punch a puppy.”

The reality of the jargon is that we all use it if it’s part of the company culture. The goal here is not to create a movement with the hashtag #antijargon. But if you do, you owe me 5 dollars. No, the goal here is not to be the person who only uses these phrases. Do you know who I’m talking about in your office? Don’t be them. Please.

Verbal Qualifiers

Christine Comaford at Forbes posted an article that I have hung up in my office. “Leaders Look Weak When They Use These 15 Phrases” is unbelievably fantastic, and I highly recommend it. I am entirely plagiarizing from this article because it’s just that good that I will gladly face the 37 years prison time for you to read it.

Below are 15 qualifiers to avoid.

  1. Almost:         “I think I’ve said almost everything about that.”
  2. A Little:         “She’s a little challenging to manage.”
  3. Sort Of:         “I sort of want to do that.”
  4. Kind Of:        “I kind of think I will.”
  5. Maybe:          “Maybe I’ll call you tonight.”
  6. Just:              “I just called to ask how you are.”
  7. Sometimes:  “Sometimes I feel…”
  8. May:               “I may go to the movies tonight.”
  9. Might:            “I might finish that today.”
  10. They:              “They think…”
  11. Everyone:      “Everyone says…”
  12. Someone:      “Someone told me…”
  13. Probably:       “He’s probably”
  14. As If:               “I’m feeling as if…”
  15. Better:            “I feel better.”

I recommend reading the full article because it goes into depth about how weak words can often translate to the perception of being a weak leader. To start, use the above list to see what qualifiers you may be using.

Do you apologize?

Enough said. It’s important to own mistakes but don’t go overboard on apologies.

As you ponder whether the language you use is helping you or hurting you, I leave you with Demetri Martin’s musings about the word ‘Dude.’ “I wonder what the most intelligent thing ever said was that started with the word ‘Dude.’ Dude, these are isotopes. Dude, we removed your kidney; you are going to be fine.”

References and Resources

Demetri Martin – Dude

Supporting Music

Jawbox – Cornflake Girl

Fishbone – Everyday Sunshine

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