Let’s start here: buzzwords aren’t the same as jargon, though jargon can become a buzzword. I wrote more about that here.
Oh, wait. You’re probably wondering what a “logophile” is.
A logophile is a lover of words and their meanings, and that is most definitely me. Which is why buzzwords bother me. A lot.
Buzzwords. There are certain words that have become functionally meaningless because they’ve been over-used and their original impact has slipped away. They’re words that once had power – power to change how we think about things, power to change the way we approach work, people, life.
But when these words become part of a trend, used without care and intention*, but instead unconsciously or, worse, performatively – then they wilt into something else, something we’ve all heard so many times that it’s just noise, and something that’s lost its original meaning and no longer has its original power.
As a logophile, I find that sad, and as someone who works with people to help them better understand each other so they can work together better, I find it frustrating, to say the least.
So, what are some of the buzzwords I’ve been digging into, trying to find more-relevant, more-meaningful alternatives for?
Communication is a good thing, right? It’s important, especially in times of change! It’s an essential skill for leadership!
Well … this may surprise you, but maybe and not necessarily.
Here’s the problem: if you look up “communication” in online dictionaries and thesauruses (and yes, the alternative plural actually is “thesaurusi”, much to my delight!), you’ll find that communication, as it’s defined today, is primarily top-down. And I’d say that’s exactly how it’s used in most organizations. Top-down, senior leadership on down, and, most crucially, one way. Uni-directional.
What’s a better word? Conversation.
Conversations include all parties; it’s two-way, multi-directional. Conversations allow for ideas to be shared and discussed.
Conversations don’t mean that every idea or suggestion or complaint an employee might have is acted upon, but they do mean that they’re heard and responded to.
Have conversations with your people, instead of just “communicating” (which really means “telling”).
This is one that a LinkedIn friend recently posted about, pointing out that the synonyms she sees online are “flexibility” and “toughness.”
Wait, what? Synonyms?! As she said, and I agreed, those feel “wildly different.”
Nonetheless, it’s become a big thing in leadership: we’re all supposed to be becoming more resilient so we can weather the storms of constant change.
The other point she and I agreed upon is that there’s a huge problem of victim-blaming. “You’re burned out? You’re not resilient enough!”
I have yet to come up with a one-word replacement, but I like the concept of flexible strength.
And I still worry about the consequences of victim-blaming. There’s a stubborn tendency to overlook the systemic issues at play and make it all about the individual, but, well, no.
And that’s a conversation (!) for another day. As are more explorations of buzzwords!
* Is “intention / intentionality” a buzzword? I think it may be in danger of becoming one, but maybe not yet. I hope it doesn’t go there; it’s a very useful word.
What’s your favorite – or least favorite! – buzzword? Let me know with an email through my contact form!