Over the past 20 years of helping corporations to identify and correct business problems affecting productivity, efficiency and teamwork, I have come to the conclusion that the root cause of most was communication. We are part of the greatest information explosion in world history, but unfortunately our ability to communicate this information is getting worse, not better.
Consider the following futile attempts:
· "You know what I'm sayin'?" Using this phrase admits that you are so inarticulate that you must regularly ask me if I am getting the message, and most of the time I have no earthly idea what you are saying.
· "You know?" This is the athletic version of the phrase above and generally used 10 times or more per minute while an athlete is being interviewed.
· If I ask you a question and you answer "whatever," I assume you don't care. So when I make the decision, why do you usually object?
· I have never understood, when you are relaying a conversation, what went on in the part where you say "yada, yada, yada." If that part of the conversation isn't important, don't tell me about it. If, on the other hand, it is important, then I would like to know what was actually said.
· Politicians, when confronted with a question they don't wish to answer, will generally start their response with, "Look," followed by "you have to understand." "Look" is the equivalent of a magician's sleight of hand, and by the way, I don't have to understand but probably would if you would simply answer the question that was asked. Speaking of which, it is "asked" not "axed."
· "It is what it is." Better to just say nothing than to dazzle us with your philosophical brilliance.
· Real apologies do not begin with "If I have offended anyone, I am sorry." Qualified apologies only prove you are an egotistical arrogant human being.
· When I have explained my point of view and you respond "the point of the matter is ..." you have communicated that my point is unimportant because what follows "is" is your point of view. A slightly more tactful version of this is "I understand what you are saying, but ..."
· There are grammar rules known as the first person "I," the second person "you" and the third person "he, she." Talking about yourself in the third person may give people the impression you are ignorant or don't care.
· Finally, if something bad happens in your neighborhood and a TV reporter interviews you, please don't start with "I can't believe it happened in my neighborhood." It may give others the impression that you are an elitist. In reality, bad things happen in good neighborhoods about as often as good things happen in bad neighborhoods.
So might I suggest that if you are still in school, pay attention. There is a reason they call it language arts. If you are an adult, you may find you get better results when you engage your brain before you engage your mouth.
Remember communicate means "with unity," so stop talking at other people and start talking with them.
Patrick Malone is a Snellville resident and senior partner at The PAR Group, an international training and development firm headquartered in Atlanta. He is also the co-author of the new business book "Cracking the Code to Leadership." E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.