101 Things To Never Say Again

“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” – Margaret Thatcher

There are some terms that just have to go away – every time I hear them I flinch, and sometimes I have to squelch the compulsion to scream.

You too? Are there things you simply cannot bear to hear one more time? Especially in a business setting?

Language is the currency of human interaction. It matters – a lot, actually. What we say, including the words we choose to say it with, says everything about us. We use language to put our best foot forward at the workplace and in social situations, so… let’s be sure that foot isn’t covered in dung, shall we?

Without further ado, here’s the start of my list of 101 things I truly, honestly could live my whole life without ever hearing again. Down at the bottom are some other terms that are confusing, and those aren’t helpful either. As you’ll quickly see, my own list is well short of 101. I was hoping you could help me build this list out in the comments below. Give me a hand?

Let’s start with things people say in the spirit of Margaret Thatcher’s famous Lady quote at the start of this post:

1. I’m a guru. Or creative. Or smart, famous, attractive, charismatic… You don’t tell people you’re a guru: it doesn’t work that way. They tell each other you are.

You don’t tell people you’re a guru: it doesn’t work that way. They tell each other you are.

2. Nobody calls you a ninja. There’s a reason for that. Don’t call yourself a ninja, either.

3. I’m a giver. Same as Lady. Just ask Adam Grant, author of [easyazon_link asin=”0143124986″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”achievstrate-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Give and Take[/easyazon_link], what he thinks of people who say this about themselves.

4. Think outside the box. Here’s the thing with this one: the only people who say this are people who’ve never even seen the outside of the box they dwell in. True innovators don’t have any idea what a box even is.

5. Trust me. This is the favorite phrase of used car salesmen the world over. Whenever someone says, “Trust me,” check your wallet. Then back out of the room.

6. Metrics. Analytics are one thing – we use them to make sense of Big Data. But “metrics” are used by untrusting bureaucracies to subjugate workers. Metrics have no place in a healthy, dynamic organization. This term has to go.

7. It is what it is. This is filler, kind of like saying “umm,” but in a much more odious way. It means nothing. Stop saying it.

8. Solution. This word also means absolutely nothing: it’s so general as to be completely meaningless, isn’t it? You’re welcome.

9. Work-Life Balance. No such thing. Work is just another part of life. Better enjoy it.

Work-Life Balance. No such thing. Work is just another part of life. Better enjoy it.

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10. Policy. Remember the bureaucrats from item #6? They looooooove to hide behind “policy.” Made by whom? For what reason? They’ll never tell you. Please, throw out all of your organization’s policies today, along with that word. Let’s use “rule of thumb” instead.

11. Best practice. This term drives mediocrity. By the time you hear about someone else’s best practice, they’ve already begun developing its replacement. You can never win by matching yesterday’s best. Invent your own, and let someone else copy it from you.

12. I give up. Winners never give up. Instead, take a page from US Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones, and try this on for size: “I have not yet begun to fight!”

13. Annual Budget. What? It’s 2014. I’d love nothing more than to go up against a company that plans its whole year out 15 months in advance. Good luck, suckers!

By the time you hear about someone else’s best practice, they’ve already begun developing its replacement. You can never win by matching yesterday’s best. Invent your own

14. Associate… Partner… Team Member… All those stupid things companies call their employees these days. Someone either works for you or they don’t. If you have to ask your legal department what you should call them, well, I hope my retirement isn’t invested in your company.

15. Human Resources. If there is one term we can’t stand here at ExchangeGain, you may have noticed, this is it. Try “people” instead. People are not resources, assets, or capital. They’re people. And people are a lot harder to fire than any of those less-personal words too, aren’t they? Which brings us to…

16. Let go. You’re letting me go? So if I choose to stay, I can? That’s what “let” implies. Terminating? That term’s gotta go, too. You hire people, and sometimes, unfortunately, you have to fire them. So get some guts and say it.

While these terms don’t belong on the no-say list, they are confusing, because different people mean different things by them, and sometimes those people talk to each other. Here is my advice for moving forward:

17. Enterprise. This used to mean “business,” as in any type of business. But somewhere along the line our very biggest companies started referring to themselves and each other as enterprises, and… well, they kind of own that term now. Use it for companies over $1B in size and you’ll be good.

18. SME. Some companies use this to refer to a Subject Matter Expert. Others use it to refer to Small to Mid-sized Enterprise. My advice? Go with SMB (B for Business) instead. More of us say SMB anyway, so this will be easier for you.

19. At the end of the day. “At the end of the day, the sun sets. Then night begins.” All other applications of that phrase make you sound like a blowhard or a tool, or a blowhard-tool. At the end of the fad, you’ll watch videos from 2011-14 and rue the way you used to abuse this trite saying.

Okay, as I said earlier, this list is a few shy of 101. Can you help me? Let’s crowdsource this sucker and get it done!

What’s your least-favorite term to Never Say Again?


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Ted Coiné is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership and Management Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership put him in a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, which he co-authored with Mark Babbitt. An inspirational speaker and popular blogger, Ted is a pioneer of the Human Side of Business (#humanbiz) movement. He is also a serial business founder and three-time CEO. When not speaking at conferences and corporate functions, Ted advises CEOs on how to become Truly Social Leaders, or “Blue Unicorns” as they put it in A World Gone Social, in order to bring their companies into the Social Age. Ted’s advice: “Change is only scary if it’s happening to you. Instead, bring the change your competitors dread. That is something only a Social Age business leader can accomplish.”

  • Chantal Bechervaise

    Here’s one: Annual Performance Review. It should be an ongoing conversation and not a formal review ONLY done once per year.

  • Rebel Brown

    “Thats the way we’ve always done it.” The number one answer I get from clients when I ask them “why” they do or think something. Here’s a tip. The way we’ve always done it is the reason for the mess we’re in. Look around. May I add another – how about “But the competition has it.” Uh huh – and following your competition will make you a market leader?

  • JohnRichardBell

    Like Rebel and Chantal, this post will inspire many of us to abolish the hundreds of useless idioms from our vocabulary. Surely, Ted, it’s “time to move forward.”

  • Ian Berry

    I concur with your list Ted and additions I would add “Tell someone who cares” “Maybe” “We’ve already tried that” “My way is the only way”

  • Cathy Miller

    “That is interesting, now…..” if it was so interesting, why are you moving the conversation away? It is a phrase that just avoids talking about or addressing whatever it was that was ‘so interesting’.

  • Kulwant Nagi

    Great thoughts.. great message..

  • Robert Pye

    “we plan to double [replace with any multiple of current revenue] our revenue/profit over the next 18 [replace with any unrealistic number] of months”

  • Sarah Carson

    “That’s not my job” — oh the eye rolling this inspires! If you CAN do something, how about just doing it?

  • Laura S

    great dialogue topic. How about ” to make a long story – short” Usually used by people who have talked too long in the first place and then don’t know how to follow their own statement.
    Best practices is another one .. best practices by who’s standards? — like Ted said, are you following or leading in that case.

    • TedCoine

      Uh… no. In the future is perfect. Those are three great examples of mind numbing corporate jargon. Bravo for adding them to the list.

      • TedCoine

        I heard the same guy say it 10 times today. Oiy.

  • ruthschwartz

    Brilliant. How can I chose a favorite? I’m tossed up between… “Human Resources” and ” Work / Life Balance” with “I’m a Giver” coming in closely behind. You are brazen!

  • Tammy Kohl

    Starting a sentence with honestly is worse than trust me. No, I really want you to lie to me.

    Another big one is ‘I forgot’ especially in the business environment. Because if you have the ability to say I forgot that means it was your responsibility to get it done and you either don’t have an effective system to track and manage your activity or you just didn’t care to make it happen.

  • @epic_storehouse

    “Let me run it by corporate” is simply another way of saying “I’m not bold enough to reject your idea to your face.”

  • lifeisntbroken

    I’d add “game changer” It’s been so overused it has holes in it and runs around looking like an abandoned orphan. I’d disagree though that “It is what it is” is shallow. That was my first take on it too, but those words have helped me to accept current situations, like them or not, and then move on to how to deal with them instead of wasting time willing them to be something different. I’ll agree that we can stop SAYING it if we can just come to terms with it.

  • Jeff

    Beginning a new sentence with, “Soooo,….” When people start out with “so” I like to say, “So what?” It’s a small win for a joke but a joke nonetheless

  • Ingrid

    “Moving forward” or “going forward” drive me nuts, as does “down the track”, all versions of the same thing. Can anyone suggest a better term for “in future”?

  • Jerome

    TLA’s! Three Letter Acronyms, or any other number of letter acronyms. Especially, if the acronym is used, but no mention is ever made of what it stands for. I was taught early on to describe the situation in five words or less, and if it couldn’t be described in five words or less, then call it something else. If something has to be shortened to 3, 4 or 5 letters, can’t it just be something a lot more simple?

  • Kathy

    Thanks for sharing. There are some things one can’t change and have no control over. So, it is what it is and then I move on. Dunno how to replace that statement. Any replacement ideas?

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  • Katherine Bryant

    “To tell you the truth” or “I’ll be honest” – makes me think that you don’t / aren’t usually!

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  • Ace

    “Fora woman”. As in she does a good job……….

  • Craig J Willis

    “someone dropped the ball on this one.” clearly because we’re not professional ball players!

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  • Ammo Singh

    Id like to add team player, well you are meant to be working not playing.

  • WalterMego

    Don’t forget the classic, “That being said”. You essentially just wasted 10 minutes sayng something and now you’re going to tell me how it doesn’t apply.

  • Jeremy Bond

    “Touch base,” “Blue sky,” and “same page” — If I had a base, I’m not sure I’d want it touched… Yes, the sky is blue but I can rarely see it from the conference room where mention of it is so often made as a metaphor for ideal (and often imaginary) circumstances. Finally, even if we were all reading the same book, I’m not we’d ever be on the same page…

  • Harjeet Singh

    this is first comment

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