04_02_03_bush_cabinet Question: Is talk cheap?

Answer: Not in a rich life.

I've been inside a few highly successful companies recently, taking notes on the words they choose. And how the words they choose lead to functional or dysfunctional teams.

Here are some examples of phrases that work poorly:

  • "Yes, but…"
    When people use these words to change the subject, "Yes" = "I hear wind coming from your mouth, but it's my turn to talk now" and "But" = "now we are finally going to talk to about something truly significant." I first learned that "Yes, but…" are the two most dismissive words in the English language from my teachers — and now colleagues — at Improvedge.
  • "It is what it is."
    This means nothing to anyone. Or it means: "I give up." Same with: "It's all good." And: "Dude."
  • "Does that make sense?"
    This is often a passive-aggressive statement that really means, "Please don't tell me that you are too thick to make sense of my brilliant concepts." Even if it's sugar-coated as "Am I making sense?", it really means, "Does this make sense to you?"
  • "Can I be honest with you?"
    A business student asks, "What? Have you been lying to me up until now?"
  • "I'm not feeling the love."
    A senior executive and principal at a company volunteered this statement that he has often used — and suddenly realized isn't clear. When his executive colleagues were asked for its meaning, they suggested a variety, from "Leave me alone." to "Sell me harder."

Well, Maybe He's Just Not Feeling The Love

But I often wonder how precise language needs to be when it really matters. I imagine the President's Cabinet meetings. (Any administration.)

I don't imagine the Secretary of Defense saying to the Secretary of Offense, "I'm not feeling the love." Language matters. The cost of vague statements can be vast. Time cannot be wasted.

Meetings of the Cabinet. Discussions in an hospital's emergency room. Orders in a kitchen of a fine restaurant.

Where words matter, folks aren't feeling around for love. Or words.

A Warning
Trying to not say these phrases can be awkward. 

For a while, for example, folks will say, "Yes, and…" in a way that intends to work like "Yes, but…" but sounds more tortured.

Yes, language can force us through gyrations.

Yes, and…

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has
taken place."

— George Bernard Shaw