I was on a call recently where I had to ask someone 4 times to repeat what they were saying using more exact terms.  It’s a major pet peeve of mine and so prevalent I’m losing my ability to be nice about it.  Perhaps it’s a result of being a kinder, gentler society or maybe it’s just because we’ve all sat through too many PowerPoint presentations or maybe we’re all testing our political-speak skills, but whatever it is the result is the absolutely maddening trend of people not saying directly what they mean and forcing the rest of us to play 20 questions to tease it out of them.

Here’s an example:

Direct description:  This is a red circle

“Business” description: The object displays certain characteristics that you might find in areas that were prone to liking colors that were deeper and brighter in tone.  I also note that the object is rounded on four sides.

UGHHHH!  I know you know exactly what I’m talking about…

  • This publication of your thoughts on the matter of normative communication styles of business society is both pleasing to this reader as well as provocative in terms of the implications it would have on a community that would take your thoughts seriously.
    Or should I say…

  • That red thing is obviously a drop of blood…

  • Pete

    Maybe it’s you, Seth, not everyone else.
    In my experience, many VCs and stock analysts can be extremely impatient and impolite. E.g., walking through a powerpoint presentation, and getting cut off with “I get it, move on”. Who treats people like that?
    Try to be more patient and have a little more “humanity” in business situations. We’re all people. You’re not more important than anyone else.

  • I think if we outlawed passive tense sentence construction in business communication, this problem would go away.

  • It is likely that the contents of a post on your blog are appealing to those who posess the same blog preferences that I do. (Great post!)

  • Great post!
    This is something that really bugged me when I moved back to the US 12 years ago. I had to relearn it. Direct is hard for many. Some cultures are radically different. Direct doesn’t have to mean personal. No hidden agendas.
    In the exec ranks I also learned to value the “yes/no” question.
    Sweet efficiency.

  • Sorry, what is ‘passive tense’ again?

  • Actually, I was going to saw that “red circle” was far too imprecise! A better description would be:
    “An aliased raster graphic of a red oval with a slight drop shadow (1-2 pixels) rendered in a black and white checkerboard pattern. The graphic is a little under 1 cm wide, and is slightly wider than it is tall. The red seems to be a straightforward 255,0,0 on the RGB scale.”