Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Monitor the Hackneyed Things You Repeat Repeatedly Over and Over Again, Excessively

Old King Tut song

From www.remember.com– an interesting website.

Hackneyed: A phrase or action that is used so many times it becomes commonplace and dull.

My mother, Creola Kincaid Lewis, told me that her parents ordered her to stop making Egyptian-dancer hand gestures after she had done it dozens of times in one evening. Those hand gestures were popular with teenaged girls that year–1924–because King Tut’s tomb with all its well-persevered artifacts had been discovered and was a cultural phenomenon.

My grandfather, Henry Kincaid, said, “Sis, a few times was funny, but now you’re overdoing it, so stop it.”  We could all use that advice.

I won’t give them further attention by listing the popular once-funny-or-cute-or significant-but-now-overdone and hackneyed phrases or actions that distract from communications or reduce it to a trite level. I will just challenge you to notice yourself and vow to reduce the number of times you do, say or write that thing. Then, replace it with something more sincere, personal or original.

Most of us also have figures of speech, comments and opinions that we have said, using the same words every time, hundreds of times, to the point of dullness. Someone I know says, in almost every conversation, “I was a multi-tasker before multi-tasking was a word.” The first time she said it, it was an interesting addition to her comments. After hearing her say it hundreds of times, Henry Kincaid would tell her to stop it.

You can test yourself in several ways:

*What phrases do you use repeatedly that you think are particularly impressive, insightful, funny or current?
*What are the ways you describe yourself or others that immediately come to mind when you’re talking?
*What are the phrases you have read on the Internet or heard on a talk-show or TV or in a movie, that you have adopted for daily use?

Listen to yourself and be on the lookout for overused, hackneyed expressions. Even though you may think it is no worries if you don’t, those who communicate with you regularly will think you are awesome if you do. I’ll do a little Egyptian-dancer gesture to celebrate!

August 24th, 2014 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 6 comments

Straight Talk–Say What Needs To Be Said

secret-hearts-brianTry Straight Talk

Many of the  problems at work and elsewhere could be reduced dramatically if people would tell the truth in appropriate ways. Instead, problem solving is stalled by those who hint, pretend to joke, talk in round-about ways or try to avoid having conflict. 

I’m not talking here about the oft-mentioned Abilene Paradox, in which people think their ideas are not in alignment with the group, so they don’t speak up. I’m talking about what is essentially deceit, wishy-washiness and lacking character and courage. And what’s worse, many people will complain, worry and moan after the fact–when they had the chance to do something constructive,  face-to-face with someone.

It isn’t necessary to blurt unnecessary truths just for the sake of doing it. And, “in your face” confrontation is not effective either.  It is also true that some things are not worth confronting, even if they could be corrected. (If that’s the case, don’t complain about it to other people!) However…

If something is weighing on your mind,
If you want to say something about a problem,
If you wonder what someone meant,
If you are confused about instructions or directions,
If you have an appropriate thought or feeling you want to express,

….just do it, in a courteous way that seeks to find the truth and works within the situation. You will also save a lot of time that way–and you will get to the core of problems, rather than dancing all around them.

Look for these times when you need to say what needs to be said:

  • You wonder what someone meant by a remark they made.
  • You don’t understand the directions you were given.
  • You don’t agree with what was said or done.
  • You have a feeling that you want to express.
  • You don’t want something to happen again.
  • Someone is lying or purposely trying to mislead, and you know the truth.
  • You and others have complained behind someone’s back about their actions.
  • You wonder what someone else is thinking about a situation.

In non-conflict situations, straight talk may simply mean asking questions to understand what someone meant, finding out about what is confusing you or stating your true opinion. In situations of conflict, it may mean owning up  to your frustrations and irritation and telling someone what is bothering you and why. For a supervisor it may mean speaking directly to correct problems rather than hinting around about them. For an employee it may mean asking a supervisor about how work is going and what is needed for improvement, rather than wondering and worrying or being angry over an evaluation but not finding out more about it.

It’s called communication, and it should be as open and honest as professional situations and sensitivity allows.

If the person you need to talk to is higher than you in the organization, you may be limited in what you can say–but you still can seek to clarify an issue or express a feeling.  If the person is a peer, you should be courteous and professional–but if something needs to be said–say it. You’ll feel better about it and you can get a subject cleared up and out of the way much more quickly.

Say what you mean and mean what you say–it will save a lot of time, and in the long run it will improve relationships, your reputation and your effectiveness.

May 26th, 2009 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development | 10 comments

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

Been Bitten? Back-Off or Bite Back?


When I got the phone call from a reporter,  I was happy to hear from her. I had no idea the call would end with me shaking from anger and frustration! Have you had that happen?

I had been encouraged by several pastors to think there was an interesting story in the fact that, through people finding this site on a search engine, I have sent a free PDF on church security to almost every state, and to Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland, Scotland, Norway, India, China, Japan, El Salvador, Peru, Mexico, Australia, Nova Scotia and to far-away Texas. So far, over 1,800 copies–and I know that several other sites are also sending out that document.

I thought the internet and international angles might be interesting for a reporter. And, since I am also a member of HARO (Help a Reporter Out) a subscription that posts dozens of reporter requests a day, I truly felt I might be assisting a reporter with a  story. I don’t have anything to sell, so I was not going to profit from it.

The reporter jumped on me with all four feet, almost from her first words, and let me know she didn’t agree with me. (She thinks telling ushers to get assistance rather than tackling a suspicious person, is creating a victim mentality.)  She sounded quite angry with me for my approach to the subject, and I got the impression she resented me contacting her about it.

Finally–not soon enough–I said I was done arguing with her about it and we hung up with negative feelings. I was stunned at her reaction to what I thought was a helpful gesture!

Have you ever been bitten when you were trying to be helpful?

My experience with the reporter reminded me of the time an employee with the United States Marshals Service, John Soltys, a recently discharged Navy Seal who was enthusiastic and hardworking, suggested an improvement in the prisoner cell block. We forwarded his idea to headquarters for a commendation and they wrote back that he should be disciplined because he went outside his scope of responsibility.

Not long ago a friend of mine picked up a toy a child had dropped in a store and smilingly gave it back to her. The child’s mother grabbed it and angrily said, “Are you nuts? That teaches her to take things from strangers!” (I think someone was nuts in that conversation.)

How can you respond to unexpected bites?

Use self-control. Avoid lashing out in anger or hurt. Use your face and voice to show that you want to know what has caused the unexpected reaction. Smile if it is appropriate. Show concern, ask questions, give people a chance to back off from their hasty actions.




Be as honest and open as the situation will allow: “I don’t know what to say. I really didn’t expect this to be a problem.” “I have to tell you, I’m surprised I’m getting this response.” Perhaps a simple clarification or explanation can completely change the reactions of the other person.

You may need to stop the interaction, if you are in a situation where you can do so: “I was mistaken and thought you might be interested. You’re not, so we don’t need to talk about it anymore.”

There will be some situations in which you cannot present your viewpoint and you can only hope to get our rear-end out of the situation safely! At that point your best response is a simple, “I’m sorry. I thought I was doing the right thing.”


“Once bitten, twice shy.” There are some people you can never please and they approach most conversations with an unpleasant attitude. Others, like you and me, may not always respond effectively, but it is not the norm and we work to avoid being unpleasant, as well as working to show appreciation.

Put A Muzzle On Yourself

Think before you reject an idea or a person. Don’t say no too quickly and don’t assume you know all about the situation and can make a clear decision. Find out more.

Use your expression and voice to present your best self. When you must disagree or decline something, you can say no without saying it in a way that is offensive, hurtful or dismissive. Especially read your emails to ensure that you are not being more curt or sarcastic than you intended.

Consider the intentions of others. The old adage is that we judge ourselves by our intentions while others judge us by our actions. Change that a bit. Work to judge intentions and try to put a good spin on them until you are proven wrong. That is what you would want from others.

Appreciate efforts: We often say, derisively, “they meant well.” At least honor that, even though you should not accept poor work or a bad outcome. Treat effort and outcome separately. When people have tried to do the right thing, don’t repay them by biting their heads off about it.

Smiling is the best way to show your teeth!

October 5th, 2008 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development | 12 comments