Translating Things People Say At Work

Read between the lines, people! Read. Between. The. Lines.

You make a comment in a meeting and somebody says, “I don’t disagree.” The person really means, “I completely disagree! Next time, do us a favour and keep your mouth shut.”

You ask if you can set up a meeting about a certain topic (you think it’s important). The person says, “That’d be a great discussion to have…This week is really busy but next week is looking good.” They really mean, “I have more important things to do this week. And next week, I’m on vacation thank goodness.”

You ask a pretty straightforward question. The response is, “It’s yes…and no…” What they’d like to say is, “I wish you never asked me that. You are forcing me to have an opinion. How dare you?”

You peep through the door of a senior manager’s office and say, “Got a minute?” They look up and say, “Absolutely – could you come back in 5 minutes? I just need to finish this email.” Unless you are quite friendly with the manager, what they probably mean is, “Put a meeting in my calendar like everybody else! Some people…”

And my personal favourite:

You show your new idea to a colleague or your boss. They say, “I like your thinking!” The look on their face leads you to believe that they actually mean, “Are you living in a parallel universe?? Or are you on drugs? This will NEVER work here so put it away before you get fired!”

 

 

 

 

 

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Yellow as a viable favourite colour

A yellow dress normally catches my eye in a shop. Then I notice there’s load of yellow dresses on the rack and only a UK 6 (US 2) and perhaps a UK 20 (US 16) left of the blue or black version of the same dress. My reaction to this worries me. And it might worry you…. My reaction is to stand confused for a few seconds, maybe even minutes – my mind in deep deliberation. I ask myself if yellow is really the “right” colour. Obviously other shoppers have turned down yellow in favour of black or blue.

I spend some minutes looking at the blue one. I don’t really do black but blue? I could probably stand it. After all up till my mid 20s, I pretended that blue was my favourite colour when folks asked me. I could never say yellow. I vaguely remember “confessing” when I was roughly 19 and the hearer had the strangest facial expression. I think they proceeded to say something in between chuckles like, “that’s unusual” or “go figure”. The truth is I don’t really recall. It was probably traumatising letting it slip because I vaguely remember needing to sit down with a glass of water. I never spoke of it again.

At a certain age, I think your soul just goes rogue and begins to expose you. For me at least, I have bought a significant amount of yellow things over the last 10 or so years and it’s pretty much public knowledge that I would so drive a yellow car if I found a dealer non-conformist enough to sell one.

My friend, Paula, even said to me at church the other day that she didn’t recognise me because I wasn’t wearing yellow. I’ve finally managed to brand myself yellow. Yippee!! Not excessively yellow though. I don’t want you to worry. You’d be delighted to know I’ve found a balance. Sometimes, I wear grey, blue and most recently black. It’s mostly experimental – testing myself on prejudice to other non-me colours. I’m doing well.

There’s masses of pressure that society puts on us to be like everyone else. I still feel it but I guess there’s a courage to draw from. Just the other day I was on my way to Newcastle and wanted to buy a non fiction book at the airport. Unwittingly, I looked at the non fiction book chart but couldn’t really engage with nos. 1 to 5. I ended up buying one that wasn’t even on the charts. What mattered was I engaged with the book and looked forward to the read.

Who votes on this non fiction charts anyway? Certainly not me.

From drawing blanks to making conversation

October has been a really good month for me. I learned quite a bit this month, I made some solid decisions and I went on a relaxing holiday! Part of the result of my learning is that I’m more confident about starting conversation with important people.

Drawing blanks

It’s rather embarrassing but when I have an opportunity to chat informally with important people e.g. a CEO or celebrity etc, I cannot for the life of me think of anything to say! I’m normally really chatty with people I know and even those I don’t know but if I was ever in an elevator with Bill Gates, I’d totally freeze up! What’s up with that? I’ve often heard people talk about the “elevator pitch” and how everyone has something like 10 seconds to describe themselves in a way that sells. I swallow when I hear that. There! My secret is out. I’ve heard one of my managers who noticed this describe me as “shy” – laughable, I know. Anyway, I think I’m on my way to overcoming this weakness of mine. I just need to breathe (in a non-obvious way, of course) and then think of something intelligent to say, right? Oh dear.

Making conversation

I once wrote an article on LinkedIn titled, “How to Befriend Almost Anyone At Work”. It’s more for building relationships with colleagues. For me, building rapport with people that I feel are on my level is pretty easy. Some executives can be easy to start a conversation with. They make it seamless and relaxed but more and more, executives- and indeed anyone in an important position in the corporate world – are getting inundated as pressure grows to improve business performance. They just don’t have the time or patience to make it easy. This is why I think I need to try harder (since I unfortunately care about this kind of thing!) even if the executive gives me little or nothing to go on. Gulp.The fortunate thing is that a guy called Bernard Marr recently wrote an article, “How to Start a Conversation with Absolutely Anyone”. It is a great guide and I felt a glimmer of hope after I read it. Unlike my article, it is more about what to SAY or bring up rather than how to befriend someone. Afterall, I’m unlikely to become Bill Gates’ best friend just because I impressed him with a interesting conversation in an elevator. Well, maybe.

Some of what Bernard mentions are (in my own wacky words):

  • Looking for something in the environment to talk about e.g. the food, the guests, the venue
  • Skipping small talk – don’t mention the weather for goodness sake, unless of course there’s a hurricane outside and you are under the table together. I’d imagine it would seem insensitive not to mention it!
  • Ask open ended questions. If you ask yes or no questions then you’ll get a “yes” or a “no”. At this stage, the only way to get more is to ask “why?” There’s only so many times you can ask why before you sound like a 3-year old on speed.

And so on. The article is worth reading if this stuff is of interest to you.

Do you have any other tips for starting conversations? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Happy Weekend!

Top 5 office phrases you need to understand

 

There are many ways to express disappointment, criticism and approval in my work life. Here are the top 5  phrases I’ve heard over the years:

5. “We need to move the needle!”

My first reaction to this was, ‘what needle’??? I totally didn’t get it but I know now that it means we need to improve profitability, performance or whatever the speaker fancies.

4. “It’s revenue gone begging!”

I still don’t really get this one to be honest. I think it means that we are losing money that should otherwise be in our pockets??? If someone out there knows how revenue might actually be begging, please get back to me – thanks.

3. “We are just navel-gazing.”

This literally means we are staring at each other’s belly-buttons. So our shirts are either off or too short…. On closer examination, I think it means we are giving each other credit for work that perhaps needs external validation? Again, any geniuses out there can correct me.

2. “We need to get into bed with the customer…”

Eh, there’s no sexual misconduct happening here – promise. This means we need to get closer to the customer, show them some love, TLC. It’s an obvious one I think. I remember wishing this wasn’t thrown around in meetings so much – it made me uncomfortable.

1. “We can’t keep drinking our own bath water!”

I agree because that is a pretty disgusting thing to do. This phrase has the same naming as the navel-gazing comment but it’s obviouslymore…poignant.

Later x

Of Kisses & Horses (Part 2)

There's no label that says, "Meat".

There’s no label that says, “Meat”. Well, I guess the “Loin” sign may be misleading some folks…

I’m not into horses but I often dream about riding one into the sunset. It’s unlikely that will ever happen.

Last week, one of my favourite grocery stores announced that they found horse meat inside their beef burgers. I understand that people make mistakes and that society is often too hard on companies that fail us in one way or another but this is alarming. I have a whole bunch of questions – and they don’t seem to be questions that news authorities are asking.

The key question from the public seems to be, “how did horses’ meat get into your beef burgers?” While this is a valid question, I’m more interested in WHO exactly is KILLING horses in such a way that they are dead enough to be meat in a beef burger!

May I ask if horses’ meat is an accepted delicacy these days? If pork or fish or duck or even hamster meat was found in the burgers, I may understand how that could happen but HORSES’ meat? What is going on? My heart goes out to all horse-lovers.

Moving on…

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