Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

For Worthwhile Communications, Avoid Junk Talk

The food equivalent of junk talk. At the risk of sounding like a school marm, I’ll mention Gresham’s Law. It is an economic theory that bad (debased) money will drive out good money.  I think it also applies to communication.  Some people use so much junk communication that they have diminished their ability to write or speak in a way that is effective, persuasive or that shows depth of thought. 

I define junk communication as catch-words and phrases that circulate widely and are considered witty or thought provoking, but that do not show any  intellect or originality. My view is that they are appropriate among friends as conversational fillers or quick ways to express a thought or get a smile. But, they are not appropriate for thoughtful  communication–and certainly not in a professional setting.

The issue isn’t that these are horrible on their own (although some are!).  It’s that using them to excess prevents you from communicating in a real sense.  And, frankly, they put you at the communication levels of those with whom you probably do not want to be equated.  Off-set the occasional use of them by ensuring that most of the time you express yourself at a level that represents you in the most positive manner.  And never, never use them because you think they will make you sound “with it”.  They won’t.

Let me give you some examples. Some of these were contributed by business people in a class last week, others are from friends or gleaned from my own experiences. 

  • Wassup? (That’s an old one that is still being used, unfortunately.)
  • What’s up with that?
  • Hel-lo?????
  • Whatever. (This is what the young man at the hotel desk said to Russell Crowe, that caused him to throw the phone. I don’t blame RC–as his other friends and I call him.)
  • As if. (This is close to the Not!!) of twenty years ago.
  • That made me vomit in my mouth a little. (To indicate how gross a comment was–as though that comment isn’t gross.)
  • I almost spit out my coffee! (To indicate how funny a comment was. This is very popular with those who write on forums.)
  • Things that make you go hmmm. (A phrase designed to indicate the writer or speaker is pointing out something interesting.)
  • OMG!!!!! (This, along with all the other instant messaging and text messaging initials, has had a tremendous–and I think, negative–impact on communication. Some people even say the initials.  In the last week I have had people say, “OMG!” and “LMAO!” I can understand saying, WTF? But, since it isn’t very soul-satisfying to say it that way, you might as well forget it.
  • Fugget it. Or, fugget-aboud-it.
  • Get over it. (You might say this behind someone’s back, but you’ll never get good results if you say it directly to someone.)
  • What a beyotch. (The word beyotch, as a way to say the bad word better, doesn’t sound any better.)
  • Sooooooooooooo (whatever the next word is): Sooooooooooo funnyyyyyyy! Soooooooo saddd. Soooooooooo sorrrry.)  I thought I was the only one who received business messages with “soooooooooo” in them.  Last week several people commented on how much like a teenager an adult sounds to write it like that  in a business email. I agree!
  • My bad. (This vague apology is often said with a tone that implies, “but it’s not really important.” It isn’t interpreted as a sincere apology.)
  • You go girl. (Another catch phrase that is sooooooooooo last week.)
  • Chill. (I don’t care for this word even when it’s used to mean, “Be cool.” But, in the last month I’ve heard it used by professional level people to describe someone who is calm, flexible or in control, or used to be. “He used to be so chill and now he’s a PITA.” “Don’t worry. He’s chill.” I asked the person who used that last phrase, why he would use it in a business setting. He looked perplexed and said, “My  kid says that all the time. You know what I meant.” The fact that I could figure out what he meant didn’t make him sound intelligent to be talking like a twelve year old.
  • Awesome!
  • It’s to die for. (Really? You really would die for that salad? Or that dessert? Really? Why not say, “It’s good enough to die for”?)

Yes, I use some (not all) of these catch-phrases myself now and then, and I know you probably do as well. But, let’s recognize them for what they are and what they are not. They are not communications that allow us to build relationships by sharing our thoughts. They don’t substitute for genuine questions or expressions of concern or appreciation. They don’t demonstrate that we are well-read and able to express ourselves in an interesting manner. They don’t inspire respect or confidence from others.  Like junk food, they have their purposes–but should be limited and not habitual. 

Have you heard any catch-phrases lately?

May 17th, 2009 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 9 comments