Cutting weasel words? I’ll get back to you

We might all have certain choice words that we resist saying to our work colleagues or boss at times. But these are probably quite different from the list of taboo workplace words and phrases recently published in Forbes Magazine.

The article asserts that phrases like ‘we’ll see’, ‘I don’t know’ and ‘I’ll get back to you’, as well as so-called ‘weasel’ words like ‘if’ and ‘try’, should be struck from our office vocabulary, if not our lives. ‘Take a scalpel and cut them out of your thinking, speaking and writing,’ declares the author, psychotherapist and business consultant Linda Durré. ‘Words like these only weaken you and make you sound noncommittal, undependable and untrustworthy.’

No doubt most of us favour certainty and a ‘can do’ attitude in our business dealings. But the problem with such a blanket ban on these words and phrases is that they can actually be pretty useful. In an ideal world, we might all know everything in the instant that we’re asked. But in reality, sometimes you need to buy time in order to double check or do some research before passing information on to a client. Infinitely better that they should have to wait for an hour and get all the facts the first time, rather than potentially acting on misinformation you blurted out on the spot, under the pressure of not being able to say ‘if’.

Good business relationships depend on someone saying ‘I’ll get back to you’ and doing it, ‘try’ and meaning it, and ‘I don’t know – but I can find out’ as necessary, not on cutting such phrases out altogether.