Everyone is always talking about the importance of communication in the business world as well as marriage and other relationships, sports teams or government.
So why, then, do we do such a poor job of what should be a simple process: people conveying information to each other in a clear and concise way, as opposed to speaking in riddles?
It seems that rather than just say what we mean in a straightforward manner, we’d rather use some ambiguous phrase to state something. The reasons for this can vary, of course. Maybe people are trying to avoid being blunt, or might think that using simple language which breaks information down to its lowest common denominator is too boring or bland in today’s pretentious world.
Perhaps they are trying to be politically correct or sensitive to keep from hurting someone’s feelings, given that there can be a multitude of ways to deliver bad news, for example. Maybe they think it’s better to dish it out with a feather than a sledgehammer, even though the net effect will be the same.
Or, most irritating of all, people are just trying to be cool when throwing around some phrase they think is clever, rather than simply cutting to the chase. See, I did it myself. Instead of stating that they should get right to the point about something, I used what might’ve once sounded cool (cut to the chase) but now is relegated to the old-and-tired cliché home.
Unfortunately, too many such phrases are finding their way into our vernacular with increasing frequency. And they are especially annoying when spread and repeated as if a verbal zombie plague were involved.
This was especially the case during the recent election season, but I can’t just pick on political candidates. Corporate officials, educators, coaches, lawyers and others are also guilty of this phenomenon.
A huge volume of aggravatingly vague catch-phrases has been the result, and here are some of my favorites:
“At The End Of The Day”
You hear people say this all the time: “At the end of the day, America needs a strong defense,” or “at the end of the day, can we trust those Chinese?”
A little-known historic fact is that this phrase basically replaced one even more tired: “when all is said and done.” I have always hated that one, too, because in reality, when all is said and done, usually more is said than done.
But the underlying message of both of those is, where will someone or something stand when the smoke clears?
“We’re On The Same Page”
Of course, that means different people are in agreement about something, but why they don’t just say so I’ll never know.
This is one of those statements that shouldn’t be viewed according to its literal meaning. But when I hear “we’re on the same page,” an image of a bunch of people all trying at the same time to sit or stand on a book or newspaper page always comes to mind.
“I Must Put Out Some Fires”
Yet another saying that should not be taken literally. Yet if someone tells me this over the telephone, I picture them standing in an office surrounded by flames and smoke and chaos, and can almost hear screams in the background.
What he or she is really telling me is they must address some pressing matters before they can turn their attention to whatever I’m bothering them about.
Either that, or there really is a firebug running amok in that person’s workplace!
“Bring To The Table”
Another favorite. Someone could say, for example, that they believe Person X is a good candidate for a job because of what he or she “brings to the table.” It simply means they possess the right academic credentials or skill set.
All I know is, if a cook or waiter is the person involved, what they bring to the table better be something good to eat.
I don’t care if they have great computer and people skills or not.
“A Different Direction”
Speaking of employment-related phrases, this is something you hear all the time from the corporate and sports worlds.
A team owner or board chairman might tell a CEO or head coach, “We need to move in another direction.” What they are really saying is, “You’re fired! We do not wish to see your ugly face around here anymore.”
But somehow, going in a different direction sounds better, even though it still means the person no longer is employed.
Maybe no one wants to be like Donald Trump, who is notorious for saying “You’re fired” to poor souls on “The Apprentice” television show. Sometimes I think Mr. Trump should go in a different direction himself, such as off a cliff (fiscal or otherwise).
The Dreaded “Paradigm Shift”
Ah, yes, I saved the best for last, something that frequently comes up in the educational and governmental realms.
Some school administrator or agency official will declare, “We need a paradigm shift,” which actually means that a fundamental change in thinking is required other than what has been thought up to then.
When I first heard paradigm shift being uttered, I thought it referred to a new gear that had been placed between reverse and third on a manual transmission. I really had trouble wrapping my head around that one, you know.
I see that my space is running out today, but an entire edition could be published on this subject. And I’m sure many more phrases are being invented with each passing day as part of people’s undying motivation to be productive in a stupidly creative way.
As we are painfully aware by now, the important thing is what you bring to the table at the end of the day.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.