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“Be silent or let thy words be worth more than silence” – Pythagoras

Words are great. Words define what we stand for. In business how we communicate will determine how well we work with each other within the business and how strongly that business will engage with our customers and clients.

And yet, words can also be the problem. As much as they have the power to illuminate, they can also confuse and obfuscate. Management speak, commercialese, corporate jargon, if left unchecked, can have the opposite effect to their intentions. Instead of clarifying matters, they can themselves increase the ambiguity and complexity.

Here are 7 words or phrases that have outlived their usefulness and should be removed from today’s business lexicon.

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1) Awesome – many years ago when companies like Apple used informal terms in a business context, it felt fresh and radical. But with every tech startup having now adopted the Steve Jobs approach to business communication, these words have quickly become stale and old hat.

None more so than the tech industry favourite ‘awesome’. Pay attention and you’ll notice that every new thing in this world is described using superlatives. Nothing any more is just useful or practical or time-saving. It’s all ‘amazing’ and ‘phenomenal’ and of course ‘awesome’.

Lets face it. The iPhone was awesome. Skype is awesome (when it doesn’t disconnect). Dyson vacuum cleaners are awesome.

But a new app to help people find the nearest pet accessory store is not an ‘awesome’ creation. It’s not even particularly fascinating. By definition ‘awesome’ means to inspire awe. It is a word that should be applied only to extremes. Describing something ordinary as ‘awesome’ doesn’t make it any more interesting.

So, use it only when there is something truly exceptional, and even then, try a less over-used word.

2) Solutions  What exactly is a ‘Solution’? Business Solutions. Accounting Solutions. Marketing Solutions. Management Solutions. Plumbing Solutions.

‘Solutions’ is a word that means everything to companies and nothing to customers. It may sound fancy but it’s also meaningless.

Speak plainly. If you solve a problem, just tell your customers what it is and how you solve it. That’s the solution!

3) Try Aisle Number 9 – we’ve all had the experience. You walk into an unfamiliar supermarket looking for a pint of milk. You ask a teenage shop assistant and all you get is a vague unhelpful point towards the far end of the store as they mumble “Try Aisle Number 9”. You head down to Aisle 9 to find it’s the baby milk section.

The unhelpfulness of the despondent shop assistant represents the worst example of poor customer service. In this day and age any company that serves – customers and clients poorly is doomed to failure.

Think from your customers’ point of view and you’ll always know what to say. Your customers don’t want to hear ‘Try Aisle Number 9’. They want to hear ‘Of course. Follow me, I’ll show you’.

4) Your call is important to us – Really? Then hire more people to answer your phones please. If you must use an automated call answering service, at least personalise it and make it less annoying.

5) Achieve greater synergies – This is one of those favourites of middle management. It’s a great sounding word that implies complex and intricate methodologies. But in truth it’s really just another fancy way of saying people should work together more. So, managers, when you want people to work together, try just asking them to work together.

6) Giving 110% and going the extra mile – It might be acceptable for X Factor contestants whilst pleading not to be cut from the show by Simon Cowell, but businesses really should know better.

Customers aren’t fooled by services that claim to go the extra mile and give 110%. They will judge you by the results you bring, and your reputation will grow by those results. So worry more about fulfilling 100% of your customers needs. You can’t really do better than that.

7) Thinking outside the box – Have any of the ideas that ever came out of a ‘thinking outside the box’ session been anything other than ordinary and routine?

The best ideas are focused and specific. They involve deep analysis and clear thinking, to make the best decision from the information available. There’s nothing wrong with the box. It’s the thinking that’s the problem.

Clear communication is a good thing. It makes businesses function better internally and helps them engage better with customers and clients.

So when you speak, remember the golden rule of communication: KISS – Keep it simple, stupid!

Kolarele Sonaike

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