Daily Thoughts

October 6, 2017

Want To Sound Smart? Stop Using Buzzwords

Photo by Pablo Garcia Saldana on Unsplash

Photo by Pablo Garcia Saldana on Unsplash


I know, we’re all guilty. Well, at least I admit I’ve used buzzwords in the past. While I can’t claim to be perfect, I do my best to squelch buzzwords in the back of my throat before they pass my lips. I’m sure anyone listening to me appreciates that. I certainly do when communicating with others.

Still, the practice of uttering buzzwords persists. If you need any evidence of that, just listen to the news broadcasts or business talk shows or even the morning shows on TV. The list of buzzwords is rampant, including “at the end of the day,” “thrown under a bus,” “circle back,” “hit me back,” “bandwidth” and more.

I love the article by Dr. Travis Bradberry, coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, posted on the business networking website LinkedIn. In addition to the buzzwords I’ve already listed, he includes “no-brainer,” “get the ball rolling,” “back to the drawing board,” “think outside the box,” “hit the ground running,” and more. Not only that, he opines that anyone using buzzwords sounds “stupid.”

Well, that’s a bit strong, yet I tend to agree. Here’s why.

The use of buzzwords is a lazy way to communicate. It represents a bad habit that, once learned, is difficult to break.
Furthermore, while we may think we’re smart to use them in conversation, thinking everyone knows what we mean without us having to elaborate, just the opposite is true.

Maybe we should pay attention to the facial expressions our listeners display. Body language – shifting gaze, restlessness, interruptions and such are good indications of lack of attention on the part of the listener, boredom, dismissiveness or potentially even a lessening of their respect for us because of our practice of using the buzzword shortcut.

At the end of Dr. Bradberry’s thoughtful piece, he asked for readers to come up with some sentences using some of his listed buzzwords that would make him laugh the hardest. He promised an autographed copy of his book to the winner. I couldn’t resist, so I penned the following:

"We're in the final stretch and it's all hands on deck here. I need you to circle back and consider the low-hanging fruit as well as forcing yourself to think outside the box on this. At the end of the day, we've got to use synergy to go back to the drawing board, hit the ground running, get the ball rolling and move the goal post so we can find ourselves in a win-win situation and get more bang for the buck. So, take this offline and when you come up with something concrete, let's touch base, ping me or stop by my office. Consider this a no brainer and know that it's on my plate as a high priority, and on my radar as well. Now, get to work!"

While I haven’t yet heard back from Dr. Bradberry, the act of writing those words gave me a chuckle.

It also made me more determined to watch myself so I don’t again fall into the lazy habit of resorting to buzzwords to make myself understood.

Nothing good can come of a buzzword that, once spoken, can’t be taken back.
Instead, use the gray matter God gave you to think of something more cogent, descriptive and fresh.
Don’t bother to ping me, yet do share this article with others so inventive discourse can spread.



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