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Even at a time when so much is beyond our control, we remain in control of our own speech patterns. And so, as leaders and employees continue to rethink what the modern workplace should look like, including how we gather, perhaps it’s an opportune moment to banish certain phrases from the “meeting-speak” lexicon. To learn what refrains others would be happy to never hear again in a meeting, I did a bit of crowdsourcing on social media and among colleagues. Here are some of the responses that resonated the most.
Often among the first words uttered by an online meeting host, this practice dishonors the time of those who joined on time and does nothing to establish a culture of punctuality for meetings. At the same time, there are legitimate reasons why an individual may be late to a Zoom meeting (or an in-person one). You might rather start with brief tone-setting exercises. Try asking everyone to remove one distraction, or asking everyone to write down their intention or objective for the meeting.
To be sure, these words quickly signal that a speaker needs to click the unmute button. But the phrase has become notoriously grating. It also makes the person on the receiving end of the comment feel silly, as though they still don’t know how to locate the mic button. A more affirmative alternative might be something along the lines of, “If you’re speaking, I can’t hear you.” Instead of making the silent speaker feel silly, this reframing shows them that you truly want to hear what it is they have to say.
If that’s the case, your plane will crash! Many of us have heard this metaphor in many a meeting. But what is the speaker actually saying about the initiative being described? Is it flying at so quick a speed that we can’t be expected to understand or question its flaws? Is this turn of phrase an excuse for haphazard execution? Perhaps we can be more specific by identifying the pieces of the project that we’ve figured out, what we’re still working on, what we don’t know yet, and how we plan to make adjustments based on what we learn.
Without a clear, quick mention of how and when this “offline” conversation will take place, this is a jargony way to dismiss someone’s idea and put them off indefinitely. And since any meaningful follow-up will likely take place online , it also no longer makes sense. Why not go with something like this: “That’s an important topic that’s beyond the scope of this meeting. I’ll email you when we wrap up.”
The next time you find yourself tempted to offer your teammates a few precious “minutes of their life back,” consider saying, “Wow. Because everyone was so productive, we’re done 10 minutes early. Thank you so much for your presence and participation. Have a great day.” This simple rephrasing has the power to reframe your work.
More ordinary than you might think
I started out reading this and thought, Wow! This really hits the nail on the head when it comes to pretentious assholes at work who we all have to bear at some time. But soon realized that I'm also guilty of using, in one form of another, the meeting-speak the author pointed out.
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