• Matt Harlos

That Which Shall Not Be Spoken

Updated: Nov 22, 2019



Do you ever get really tired of hearing certain words used in business conversation? If you’re not quite sure what we’re talking about, ask a teenager to speak three sentences without using the word “like.” #AmIright?

A few years ago, there was a game for corporate outings and conferences: buzzword bingo. We tolerated the complete overuse of words like “synergy”, “two-point-O”, “cloud”, and others, to the point that it became a game to call out the parties guilty of throwing around these words until their meaning became completely empty.

That helped, but it didn’t and still doesn’t put an end to the words we use and overuse just to fill space when we can’t make an intelligent argument or statement. Therefore, we’re taking it a step further, not a goose-step mind you, but a simple step to interject some discipline into how we talk, because our words matter. The words we use change how we think. It influences how others think of us.

This week, we have banned the word “so” from our office. That’s right: you cannot say the word “so” in the Gimme office. Think of this exercise in much the same way that “the Knights Who Say ‘Ni’” would react to hearing the word “it”.

Applying self-discipline to any aspect of life is challenging, and immediately has an impact on whatever aspect of life we are attacking for the purpose of improvement. Applying discipline to our vocabulary can have a profound affect on how others perceive us. You may not agree with our little step, and that’s ok, but we want to share with the responses from Gimme team members about why they agree with banning the use of the word “so”. Perhaps these responses will help someone understand more about the words they use.

  1. “The word-that-should-not-be-named is a crutch that can distract listeners from the point. It’s sometimes used as a way of entering a conversation with a quizzical tone, which makes the speaker appear indecisive."

  2. “‘So’ is a weasel word that people use to avoid giving a straight answer. Gimme team members should speak with confidence. Therefore, 'so' won't be a part of our vocabulary."

  3. “Our ban seeks to rectify a mindless and unintentional use of 'so.' Similarly used as um, like, uh, or er. Some psychologists argue that these unconscious disfluency of language can signal a need or help or incomplete thought within conversation. However, when used too frequently it actually distracts the listener from what you are saying (which can be detrimental within the business environment). Additionally, if vastly overused, 'so' and other words can cause the speaker to appear unintelligent, another undesirable trait, especially when representing Gimme to outsiders. Because we tend to speak in patterns, eliminating the use of 'so' within office conversation will likely correlate to speech outside and help Gimme employees to speak clearly and with intent in all situations."

  4. “The word 'so' eschews commitment to a statement and is intentionally vague. The word’s linguistic function is akin to the ever popular 'like' in the teenage community. Clear and concise statements of fact exude pride of ownership and confidence in a statement, lending a higher degree of credibility to the speaker’s assertions.”

Will our internal word-banning change our lives? Maybe. Maybe not. But we believe in challenging the little status quos of our lives in order to make everything - every little detail - we do even better than it is today.

What words are you really tired of hearing?

#vocabulary #thoughtleadership #so #ban #powerofthought #vocabularymanagement #selfdiscipline

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