Not Invented Here syndrome (NIH) is the guilty pleasure that tempts engineering teams into creating bespoke approaches to problems that have already been solved. Even having your eyes opened to the temptation doesn’t immunize you from it. So, how do you know whether a bespoke solution warrants the effort or if it’s just plain hubris?
How annoying is that title? If you answered “pretty annoying” or “super annoying,” you are correct. Using more words than necessary or using a ten-dollar word when a five-cent word would suffice is not a new problem. This scourge on humanity predates the written word. When coupled with corporate buzzwords, language loses meaning and one’s perception of reality falls apart like Leonardo DiCaprio waking from a dream in Inception. This coupling makes conversations dull, points nebulous and is, quite simply, super annoying.
But don’t worry, America. We can fix this problem using my handy guide.
ELIMINATE THE PREAMBLE
Show me a person who hasn’t daydreamed in a meeting and I’ll give you the shirt off my back and everything I own (a valued total of $47.56!). We are all guilty of allowing our minds to wander during meetings from time to time. Maybe you fell into a Netflix k-hole way too late the previous night or your coworker’s nose JUST WON’T STOP WHISTLING and you can’t focus on anything else.
Typically you can find out exactly who isn’t listening by the following:“Can you repeat that again? …
- My connection was bad.”
- My line cut out.”
- I lost the call.”
- I wasn’t paying attention.” (Bonus points for bravery).
However, sometimes you’ll find yourself on a call and swear to everything holy you were listening the entire time, but get totally lost in a sea of rolling syllables and go, “Uhh, what?”
Nine times out of ten it’s because your colleague has called an audible and gone with the dreaded “Preamble.”
The preamble is a destroyer of worlds. It can be defined by anywhere between 500 and 700 words of exposition to an issue that should have been left on the cutting room floor. Almost always the preamble begins with “Soo…” and is followed by a prologue irrelevant to the story. If you have an issue, please state your concern first. “I have a problem with [x], I need [y].” Everyone will understand the issue, and your brevity will snap people out of daydreaming. And guess what? Then you can roll into your narrative. After you state your problem, go into the details and nuances of your story. As a team we can work together to fix the problem and add comments of our own, creating a collaborative novel to be documented and leather-bound in our task management system. We just need to know what the problem is first.
“Hey, shooting you an email to touch base on our roadblock vis-à-vis the paywall and want to air out concerns regarding our action plan moving forward.”
“Hey, there’s a problem with the paywall. We need to fix it.”
Which do you prefer? There is a right answer.
Corporate buzzwords are the tiny piece of tinfoil in the Hershey kiss that is a conference call. Or something. I’ll readily admit I’m guilty of it. I don’t know why that mechanism in my brain fires sometimes, but I wish I could extinguish it. Sure it’s fine to use these words from time to time. Sometimes you just do. But these words should not be high-ranking members of your vocabulary. I actively try to not use these words because I find them very annoying.
Yes, there is a different way of speaking in a professional setting than in a casual setting among family or friends. It is important to project professionalism at all times. It is equally important to not turn your vocal cords into a speakerphone of white noise. Let your personality shine through. Use words you would use in your daily life so everyone on the call gets to know you a little better and can pick up on your mannerisms. You can relax a little as long as you get your work done. Do you. Let your freak flag fly, America.
I’m not the language police and we’re all guilty of the transgressions above. No one is at fault; we just need to work on “us.” Let’s communicate. Let’s talk. No more dancing around what we want. No more letting the Man keep us down. Just state what you want clearly and precisely, so we’ll have more time to get to work or, more importantly, shoot the breeze and relax a little bit. Let’s let loose and learn about each other during the ten minutes of time in conference calls.
I can personally guarantee that this handy guide will save you.