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I owe it to myself to live up to the highest standards.  I owe it to myself to provide legendary excellence … At the end of the day, we try not to boil the ocean but just look for the best win-wins’, he told her…”

Do you speak English?

…people at this company were always ‘drilling down and disintermediating the dialogue… driving maximum functionality, with end-to-end mission-critical competence to incent high-level blue-ocean change.’”

In his excellent book, The Social Animal, David Brooks paints an immediately vivid picture of the swaggering CEO of a fictional major corporation.

When I read the way he managed to cobble together all that gobbledygook and fashionable business-eze into a single utterly meaningless sentence I had to laugh.  I realized quickly that the reason it was so funny to me was that I recognized it – this could well have been me or one of my colleagues spouting this jargon. We might use different meaningless ‘business catch phrases du jour’ but the impact is the same. There is none!

Barriers to Communication

The problem with the fashionable jargon of the day, which is continually changing in synch with some unseen and obscene linguistic fashion trend is that it gets so massively overexposed that it becomes utterly invisible – and meaningless.  It is used and misused so much that our unconscious censors decide that it has no value and begin to edit any meaning it might have had – simply snipping it out of what’s being said and consigning it to the floor of their mental editing rooms.

So what Taggert said above delivers the same essential message as:

““’I owe it to myself to _______bleep______. I owe it to myself to provide _______bleep______…_______bleep______, we try not to _______bleep______but just look for the best _______bleep______”.


…people at this company were always _______bleep______and _______bleep______. They were driving _______bleep______, with _______bleep______ _______bleep______ to _______bleep_____________bleep______.”

That is not communicating and, if there is one thing a leader must be it is a communicator.  Believe me, if this creates barriers to communicating with native English speakers then it is an even more serious obstacle to understanding when used with non-native English speakers.  It’s not worthy of you.

Now I know that everyone reading this knows the absurdity of this empty biz-fashion talk – why then do so many of use it?  It has to be either an unconscious need to fit in, to be part of the ‘in crowd’, or an attempt to try to convince those around us that we are smart enough to have our finger on the business pulse of the moment.


Bottom line: if you want to be seen as a smart, finger-on-the-pulse effective communicator then use language designed to communicate – simple language. The quality most people admire in those they regard as smart savvy leaders is their ability to boil complex situations and challenges down to language that anyone can understand.  It has always been so – thousands of years ago Ariel said “the great communicator is the simplifier”.  NOTHING has changed.

If you use ANY of the gobbledygook then your communication is being compromised. Eliminate it by focusing upon communicating as opposed to just talking:

  1. Go about eliminating junk talk from your vocabulary, one phrase at a time
  2. Be aware of the temptation to catch the latest viral jargon – and resist consciously: don’t become a slave to fashion
  3. Use the simplest possible words and grammar to say what you need to say. Only say as much as you need to say to deliver your message. Slim your dialogue way down

Then you’ll stand out from the crowd for the way you speak – for all the right reasons: everyone will understand everything you say and accord to you the reputation of the having the wisdom to distil.

Now that IS speaking English.

Got any good examples of currently popularly gobbledygook?

Use the ‘Comments’ section below to give us all a laugh