Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Verbal Pet Peeves II

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about those pesky, annoying things people say in everyday life and what I think of them. Well guess what? Those weren't the only ones.

Here are a few more that bug me and, I think, you should look out for - or if you use them, stop.

"It is what it is"
This one communicates that the person using it cannot describe something - a problem or challenge usually. People use this phrase when they basically surrender to a situation. "Can't do anything about this, it is what it is." The thing that bugs me on this one is not so much the saying, but HOW MUCH people say it. Put a few more seconds of thought into what the problem, challenge or topic is your communicating about and I'm pretty sure you'll be able to say something more profound and helpful than "it is what it is." Or, if you really are out of ideas or really don't think anything can be done...say that.

This is a real common one. People want to have a set of take-away information from a meeting, a conversations, a report or similar. They want something they can use or apply later or to inform their own decision making. And they certainly want to be able to tell their boss or their team that the were, essentially, paying attention in whatever gathering they were at by reporting out something tangible they learned.

So, people say stuff like, "The learnings from that customer meeting were...." or "What we need are solid set of learnings to help determine our next step."

But the use of the word "learning" is jarring and is not correct.

No people, in fact what you're looking for are not "learnings," but....wait for it..."lessons." What lessons can be learned from a meeting? What lessons can someone teach us?

"The ask"
In business, people and teams are always asking for things - more budget, to hire, to fire, to get or ditch responsibility for something and on and on. It's endless. I've noticed that when many people describe what they are asking for they literally use the word "ask" as a verb. People say stuff like, "The ask is for 20 percent more budget this year" or "Well, that's a pretty aggressive ask if you want to know my opinion on the matter." Really? That's they way you want to communicate? To represent yourself?

Just like "learnings," this is just incorrect English and sounds lame - especially when their such an easy word to use instead. That word is "request." That's right, you are requesting budget or the request seems too aggressive.

I remember hearing this one for the first time back in the mid-1990s when my boss was asking me if I could take on a certain element of work or not. She asked me if I had enough "bandwidth" to do it. I got what she meant - as anyone who uses technology at work does. She was using an analogy with how much data a network can handle (or not) based on its bandwidth.

I know that most people will understand what is being communicated with "bandwidth," but guess what? People aren't computers or networks or servers or modems or routers and should not be addressed as such. The amount of time I have or don't have to do my job is not analogous to technology. That and, well, comparing ones time to "bandwidth" just comes across as geeky. Better to use "capacity" or "time" or "resources" or "ability."

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