What a capacity language has to irk people. Why else would various organizations compile their lists of overused, annoying, or ridiculous words or phrases they wish would disappear in 2013?

We have “Twitterverse,” “whatever,” “like,” “fiscal cliff,” and “YOLO.”  Such phrases as “at the end of the day,” “it is what it is,” “just saying,” and “no worries.”

But nowhere do I find two phrases that are becoming fixations in the workplace. The first is “reach out,” which seems to have replaced contacting, calling, or even getting in touch. And second, talking to, discussing, or speaking with have been ditched in favor of “having a conversation.”

What are these words doing in the business world? I think of them in terms of “Reach out to Aunt Bessie and see if she needs help after her hip replacement,” or “Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth, Jane, and Mr. Bingley had a conversation over tea and biscuits.” Not “We need to reach out to Roger and have a conversation about why IT refuses to address why our network keeps crashing.”

Maybe it’s just me, but reaching out and having a conversation implies a  touchy-feely moment that’s informal and friendly. Which is fine, except when the people you’re reaching out and conversing with aren’t equals and could be responsible for you not getting that raise or promotion or being reprimanded etc. So the next time at work I need to contact someone to talk to them, I’m going to say just that. Quite likely, my choice of words will annoy someone.

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