Are your words at work working for you?


Are you climbing the corporate ladder, reaching out and engaging in blue-sky-thinking?


A LinkedIn post I wrote recently has got me thinking. How important is the language you use in every-day business? And how authentic should you be?


Very!


In some cases, the words you use in your business will make the difference between a person choosing to actively engage with you versus them shutting the door to you and your opportunities.


Whilst some found phrases (thinking outside of the box to give 110%, we’re looking at you) cringe-worthy but cope-able, others had people leveraging their power over the decline-contact button in double-quick-time.


Here are some of the gripes that have stirred debate among my LinkedIn contacts.


REACH-OUT

This appears to be the Marmite of phrases in the working world – especially when it comes to making a fresh introduction. Whereas some find this a natural and friendly turn-of-phrase and one which invites connected discussion from the get-go, it is also clear that others see it as a metaphor too far and hanker after a more tried-and-tested ‘hello’ to get the ball-rolling on initial conversations.


TOUCH BASE

This one, used to share information (often whilst on-the-go), had a similar feel to it as reaching-out.

For some – especially in more traditional fields of business – this felt too NASA-in-space-like informal. Instead, some preferred options were to share updates, keep somebody informed or keep them posted.


HELICOPTER THINKING

Well… at least we’ve moved past blue-sky thinking… Hmmm. This phrase refers to rising above the here and now and looking at a given situation in its entirety – context, location, scale. Isn’t this what any structured meeting should do? Do we really need a hover-based term for it?


JARGON AND ACRONYMS

Major gripes from many on this one!

Naturally, people like anything that will save them time. On the surface, acronyms appear to do just this. Lurking beneath, though? The frantic Google search as your team/colleague/ email victim tries to keep up.


If you want to use field-appropriate jargon and acronyms, by all means go ahead, but make sure to teach people the language you speak. Those you don’t, can’t come to your work-based-chit-chat-party and can’t share their insights, ideas and feedback because they can’t talk your talk. And the biggest loser in that situation could be you.

Whereas, overall, it seems people like the direct approach – say what you mean and avoid too many metaphors – there is definitely a lot to be said for appreciating the sheer variety in the language opportunities we can choose to dip in and out of at whim. Industry fields, geographical location and age will all play their part in a person’s language at work.


KEY TAKEAWAY

If somebody is offering you their words and they come from a place of respect, accept with them with gratitude.

Language does a wonderful job of demonstrating people’s individuality; being aware of a person’s language-choices can help you tune-in to what makes them tick. That is surely the way to build mutually positive and respectful working relationships.