CategoryCommunication

5 Phrases to Stop Using in 2017

Words matter.

As someone who loves writing and spent decades in nerdy activities like theater and debate club, I know words matter.

And I know verbal fillers are often a hindrance to us and our messages being taken seriously.

A couple times a year, I reflect on the words I use frequently and eliminate phrases I believe have potential to hurt my message or my reputation.

I’ve shared thoughts on this before:

Here are the 5 phrases I’m eliminating from my lexicon in 2017:

  • “Let me know if there are any questions” … This phrase is passive-aggressive and unnecessary. If you’ve created a culture where professional curiosity and clarity is welcomed, you shouldn’t need to give people permission to ask questions. If that isn’t your organization’s culture, work on that — starting with letting the passive-aggressive phrases go.
  • “I think” … This phrase is self-defeating and unnecessary. If you are speaking or writing, it is safe to say the words are your thoughts. If they weren’t you’d say “Bob thinks” or “Jane thinks”. By classifying your thoughts as your own, you actually damage your credibility and appear to lack confidence. If you cannot speak with confidence and credibility, it is always best to be quiet.
  • “Basically” and “Accordingly” … These are passive-aggressive words masking as authoritative words. Authority doesn’t have to assert itself. If you have it, everyone will know and behave accordingly ūüėČ
  • “The problem is” … If you’re using this phrase, it better be followed up by a recommended solutions. Otherwise,¬†you look whiny and incapable. Or worse — you look unwilling or uncaring. Build your reputation as a problem solver, not a problem proclaimer.
  • “I’ll try” or “I’ll do my best” … Just like “I think,” this is self-defeating and unnecessary. You should always be trying and/or doing your best. When you declare it on certain occasions, it calls your efforts at other times into ¬†question. And it makes you appear to lack confidence in your abilities.

What we say has power over ourselves and others. Don’t let that power work against you. Be mindful of these phrases and others that are working contrary to your goals.

Change your language. Change your life.

2017: Year of the Savage

Maxine Waters has brought me out of my indefinite blogging hiatus.

The urban dictionary defines a “savage” as one badass muthafugger who does or says things no one else has the balls to do or say; a person or event that is brutal, yet awesome.

Maxine Waters is a savage.

Her pure, unadulterated savagery in recent days is an absolute call to action — and I could not ignore it.

For those who may not know, Maxine Waters is a Congresswoman from California. She has been in the news a lot recently because of her opposition to our new POTUS. Her most recent epic moment¬†was this press conference … if you can even call it that. It was only about 15 seconds¬†long. Watch.

There are many who have criticized Congresswoman Waters for her handling of this and other moments of outspokenness in recent weeks. She’s been called a bully and rude and disrespectful and a bunch of other things that I won’t dignify repeating.

I am not one of those people. I am 100% here for Maxine Waters’s savagery. All of it.

In a time when we’re criticizing people for being too politically correct, the “savage” should be a welcome breath of fresh air.

The savage is the antithesis of political correctness. The savage is unapologetically honest. The savage says what needs to be said. The savage is brief and witty. The savage calls out hypocrisy. The savage provokes thought. The savage keeps those around her/him on their toes. The savage wastes no time and plays no games.

Being a savage isn’t about being a bully. True badasses are rarely bullies.

Being a savage isn’t about being rude. The truth is never rude. The truth is always clean and classy.

Being a savage isn’t about being disrespectful. It is about being decisively bold in thought and action.

So because of Maxine Waters and her call to action, I am declaring 2017: The Year of the Savage.

I’m back because of it. And I’m fully equipped and ready for it. Let’s go.

The Trouble with Being Transparent

Transparent.

It’s one of the biggest buzzwords used to describe management style and workplace culture today.

Like all buzzwords, the definition of what “transparent” means in the world of work varies … For me, it is a management style and/or culture approach where parties are consistently forthcoming and clear about expectations and goals in order to achieve desired-outcomes. It is a management style and/or culture approach of openness, sincerity and collaboration.

Everyone says they would love to work in a transparent culture for a transparent manager. Everyone thinks transparent culture and transparent managers are great. Everyone assumes transparent culture and transparent management is easy.

Everyone is wrong.

If you work in a transparent culture or for someone with a transparent management style, here are a few things to expect:

  • You will answer a lot of questions on a lot of things a lot of the time. Clarity is critical for transparency.  To get clarity, you must gain knowledge and understanding. And you cannot gain knowledge or understanding without asking a lot of questions — factual questions, open questions, closed questions, recall questions, process questions, relational questions, causal questions, questions on questions on questions.
  • You will track, report and analyze metrics. Data is critical for transparency. Part of being transparent is making and sharing information to enable and explain decisions.  Costs, expenses, transactions and trends must be monitored to achieve this.
  • You will handle confidential information. Sharing is critical for transparency. To share, you have to provide information. Some of that information will be sensitive in nature. Some of it will be OK to repeat to others; some of it will not. Be sure to know the difference.
  • You will spend a lot of time with your co-workers. Collaboration is critical for transparency. To collaborate, you have to build teamwork. To build teamwork, you have to spend time together in active work and in downtime. Expect to have a lot of formal meetings as well as social events and organized bonding.
  • You will have to be available. Visibility is critical for transparency. To have visibility, you have to be accessible. You must be approachable and cooperative. You must be receptive and innovative. You must be willing and accountable. You must be enthusiastic and accepting.
  • You will get a lot of feedback on areas for improvement. Pursuit of development is critical  for transparency. To grow, you must know your weak areas and be willing to improve. To learn, you must be critiqued and coached. Not all the feedback will be good or feel good.

Cultivating a transparent culture and/or a transparent management style is hard work. It is demanding and  burdensome. It is time-consuming and deadline-driven. It is confrontational and persistent. It is difficult to create it and challenging to maintain.

That’s the trouble with transparency. Can you handle really it?

“You Should Smile More” — and Other $#!+ No One Says to Men at Work

I am a feminist … It’s taken me a really really long time to accept this truth about myself — and in some ways I still struggle with the label. But there is no doubt about it. I am.

First of all, I am a woman — and all women should be about the things that help women. Along those lines, I support women’s causes and their efforts. Pay equality. Changing our worldwide rape culture narrative. More flexible work scheduling that allows for healthier and realistic work-life balance.

I’m 100% down with less sexism in the world in general.

Much like racial prejudice, there are levels and nuances to sexism. Male privilege is as pervasive as White privilege. It seeps into our every day conversations so much that we barely notice it … It doesn’t make people racist or sexist, necessarily. But sometimes it causes hurt and confusion unintentionally.

If we truly want to make our working worlds more unified places, we have to start noticing it and changing it.

And I really believe we can!

So here are a few common low-key sexist phrases to start with:

“You should smile more” … I’m a smiler. I have a wide array of facial expressions. But that’s not the case for everyone. The last I checked, smiling is NOT in most job descriptions.  No one ever suggests men smile more. No one coaches men to be more likable. Stop doing it to women. Stop asking women to explain and justify the looks on their faces with stupid expressions like “resting bitch face” — unless we’re making “shriveled c*%& face” a thing too … Otherwise, just stop doing this. Focus on facts, not facial expressions. 

“That’s a nice dress” … If you like my outfit, I don’t mind a sincere compliment. But that’s not the case for everyone. The last I checked, styling is NOT in most job descriptions. Men are rarely complimented on their clothes and shoes and stuff like that. No one coaches men to dress up or dress down to be more effective in their jobs. Stop doing this. Focus on vision and mission, not fashion. 

“Go home and have a glass of wine” … I don’t drink wine. I drink rum — and I’m developing appreciation for vodka. But TV and movies have created this fantasy of women who soak themselves in bubble baths after a long day while sipping chardonnay with a lone tear of frustration rolling down their cheek. That is not the case for everyone. It’s great to encourage someone to take a break and regroup — but don’t negate that with icky gender stereotypes. Focus on encouraging, not directing or narrating. 

“Did you change your hair?” … My actual hair style hasn’t changed significantly since 1993. But, again, I personally don’t mind a sincere compliment. That’s not the case for everyone. Men don’t generally hear feedback when they get a haircut or shave or anything like that. Men’s physical appearance isn’t a hot topic at work. It shouldn’t be for women either. Focus on the coins, not the coifs. 

“You look tired”… In my mind, I wake up #flawless every day. In reality, I know this isn’t totally true. My grind means long days, short nights and occasional dark circles. It’s off-putting to point that out to anyone; there’s no appropriate or comfortable response for this. For women, this comment ties back to the illogical ideals on physical appearance and the “Stepford” complex imposed. Again, it’s great to encourage someone to take a break and regroup. Don’t use backhanded compliments to get there. Focus on supporting, not judging. 

“Boys will be boys. You know how it is” … The last I checked, child labor was still illegal. I don’t work with boys. Everyone is 18 and up. That means everyone at work is an adult. Childish behavior shouldn’t be encouraged or tolerated. We shouldn’t dismiss or excuse inappropriate, uncooperative, rude and unprofessional behavior from anyone based on their gender. Focus on correcting and coaching, not condoning. 

I’m not advocating a workplace without general observations or compliments.  However, I am suggesting we be mindful and considerate in the words we choose. I am suggesting we be authentic in and accountable for the energy we bring. I am suggesting we be conscious and inclusive and accommodating of people’s differences in a way that doesn’t create weirdness, resentment or burden. I’m suggesting we be more kind and human with our resources.

And I’m suggesting we stop saying $#!+ like this and other shady, low-key or blatantly obvious sexist stuff at work … or be prepared to start catching feminist clapback.

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