Are You Speaking Gobbledygook?

In this week’s Thursday Night Insight, Nick Hague questions how clearly people are communicating in the business world today.

The year is now 2011 but things are no different than 2010 and I profess they are getting worse. I was sat in a meeting a couple of weeks ago (just after New Year) listening to the same old twaddle:

“It is mission critical that we focus on our core competencies in order to maintain our edge in the marketplace. If we don’t think outside the box, become more customer centric and focus on the low hanging fruit we will get push back and won’t be able to deliver the win win to deliver a seamless solution. Come on, let’s give 110%”.

Of course I exaggerate, but only slightly! How did things ever come to this – and when could you get more than 100%?

If I went home and started talking to my family in this kind of talk they would think I was speaking another language and they would be right. I have also started to hear similar talk out of work with people in the pub using such awful phrases as ‘blue-sky thinking’ and ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’. Why do we talk in this weird business speak?

Well, it may be due to the invasion of business reality TV shows like The Apprentice but I think the time has come to start speaking like humans again (even at work!).

Think of the last time you sat on a plane or train that was delayed and the way the guard or pilot phrases their apology. Just before Christmas, I was sat with a colleague on a plane (after an hour and a half delay already) and as we were sat on the tarmac, over the tannoy came the pilot “We would like to thank all passengers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience caused”. The pilot then went on to add that “due to unforeseen circumstances that are out of our control our slot has been put back a further hour. We will update you when we have more information but if you do wish to get off this flight please make yourself known to one of the cabin crew”.

It may as well have been delivered by a robot with the inhuman way it was put across. On the occasions when I am home late from work or having to work late to meet deadlines would I ever say ‘sorry for the inconvenience’ to my wife who has put the children to bed and dealt with another evening of solitary confinement; of course I wouldn’t and if I did I know what the comeback would be!

Suffice to say, we got off the plane and ended up delivering the presentation via a video conference. What was enlightening was that after the 3 hour video conference, one of the PA’s came in and profusely apologised “I am so sorry for not offering you coffee or tea during the meeting”. It was heartfelt and of course it was no problem but immediately I warmed to her genuine nature.

I therefore postulate; is the way we communicate hurting our businesses and individual reputation more than we know? If the airline in question had dealt with the situation in a slightly more humane way, would I have felt differently about the soured experience? Research carried out in the UK with over 2,000 adults by YouGov confirmed these worrying trends that nearly half of the respondents admitted to using ‘business jargon’ outside of work with family and friends but an enlightening 70% of people (especially in the North West of England) found such talk to be irritating.

Of course, there is always a balance between being professional and being personable but in this world saturated in information and alternatives, being clear not only in the proposition you take to market but in the language you use will make you stand out from the crowd and deliver you a competitive advantage that customers will warm to.

So in wrap up to this week’s Thursday Night Insight and with the whole year ahead of us I ask you to try and make this year’s resolution to talk with clarity and without mumbo jumbo jargon and I promise you; as long as you give it 200%, it will definitely feel fresh to the other claptrap that is being spouted!

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