Monday, December 5, 2011

"I Don't Understand What Anyone Is Saying Anymore"

I just read a great thing about the way many people talk today = they talk in a way where it is impossible to understand exactly what they mean.  Or even remotely understand what they are trying to say.  The article is by Dan Pallotta, was published in Harvard Business Review, and you can read it here.  It is really worth to spend a few minutes on this article (it is not long).

Dan Pallotta talks about the five expressions of this epidemic of stupid talking:
Valley Girl 2.0
Meaningless Expressions
Abstract Valley Girl 2.0 Acronymitis Using Meaningless Expressions   

I have seen all of these in presentations and discussions, and it often drives me crazy, even if I am guilty of it too.  But no longer.  But I will still wear my T-shirt (which is on today!) that says "think outside the box"  with a drawing of a TV.  But I do think we need to get the language we use back to reality.

It is very interesting to ask someone that just has fed you a long sentence of abstractionitis, "So, what does that really mean?"  Often, they have no good answer.  Which means, they had nothing real to say to begin with. In Swedish, we call this 'ordbajseri'. (That means sort of like 'bullshitting' in Swedish, but more mean.)

Dan's example about 'exceeding expectations' is hilarious.  I think most consumers no longer have any (and certainly not high) expectations regarding services and products.  The products or services just break or don't work out well.  Just ask anybody that is flying with Continental recently, for example. So, exceeding expectations is not really what you want to focus on as a company.  How about focus on making products that are not made to break, try to make customers happy and satisfied and not just poor and angry, and have a personal, local touch?  Without speaking abstractionitis or acronymitis... :)

What if the people that suffers from these epidemic speech patterns not only speak but also think this way?  That would be scary.  How can they then reason logically, think straight, and make good decisions? So, back to simple reality, in speech too.


PP said...

yes, yes and yes! He missed one that ranks up near the top for me. The propensity of sports terms in business speak(and regular conversation too) Goal line, Lets touch base, throw a hail Mary, etc...

I hate it.

LS said...

Throw a Hail Mary? What is that? Maybe I just ignore these because I know nothing about football or baseball...

I know I am guilty of using words like this too much: interdisciplinary, value-added, and 'hang in there'.

Sarah said...

I noticed that nonprofit management is listed in his bio paragraph. I feel like a lot of the things in this article are *especially* prevalent in the nonprofit world. Especially all the nonsense words that are supposed to make something sound better. I like that he included a reference to "social media." That seems to be a big one. Being good at Twitter is now considered an asset for employment, which to me seems somehow linked to talking and saying nothing.

LS said...

Twitter - talking and saying and THINKING nothing, so true. People don't take the time to think a real, original thought anymore. It is just rehashed, copied, plagiarized, unanalyzed, and shallow. "Jesus is trending!" Just like that.