Guest Writer – Paul King – Corporate Speak – how not to talk to people

We asked Paul King (Owner at, Auckland) if we could reproduce his article “Corporate Speak,” here on our page.  Paul’s article ties in with our own eye witness accounts of Corporate conduct and behaviour  (see previous article), where the ‘corporateness’ did not fit the kind of empathy required during the covid19-lockdown.  For many business owner’s it’s a crisis situation. They want peace of mind, TLC, empathy, reassurance, and consideration. Paul’s message is clear, ‘remember when you’re talking with people your role is to help them’.

Thank you, Paul.  Sometimes we need reminding.

Paul King

I got a voice-mail yesterday that was so full of over-cautious, overly deliberate corporate speak I deleted it about 10 seconds in. It was from someone I’d never met that wanted to tell me I was wrong about something… oh, sorry, that was keen to hear my concerns because feedback is so important to them and they wanted to give me a chance… etc.

Listening to someone that’s swallowed the book of corporate speak never goes well with me. When did we start conversing is pseudo-legalese? It immediately puts my back up. If I hear ‘concern’, ‘issue’ or ‘we want’ (or even worse, ‘we are wanting to’) at the beginning of any conversation the alarm bells start going, even if it’s good news or something I want to know. I don’t want to talk to anyone that sounds like they’re about to slide me ‘a letter’ and ask me if there’s anything I’d like to talk about before I leave…

What happened to our ability to just ‘talk’, naturally?

Not everyone is going to warm to you; you, the natural ‘you’. However, isn’t life going to go much better for you, less ‘stressy’, if the people that communicate with you most do actually want to because the ‘get you’? Language includes many deep-seated psychological parts and isn’t just the words. It’s timing, tone, nuance, speed, timbre and much more. We are hard-wired to perceive so much from a voice. A voice and a face, oh boy, now we’re talkin’!

It’s virtually impossible (with the exception of good actors) for anyone to ‘force’ genuineness. Babies recognise who’s friendly and who’s not and we don’t loose it. We can get sloppy and decide to fool ourselves when as adults we want something to be so, but at the back of your mind, you still kinda know. So, in case anyone was thinking that they’d invest in a course of ‘how to speak’, don’t bother, snake oil is a much safer bet.

Voices are for communication, not ‘word delivery’. We are the highest evolved (created if you wish) species there has ever been, we didn’t get there without the ability to ‘read’ people. So, when we speak, we are communicating far more than the words we speak. However, the choice of words and sentence construction can easily give the game away before anyone has their radar working. It can be done in writing and on the phone, you don’t need to be able to see the person.

Talking in corporate speak is un-natural and requires the other person to translate and interpret what you’re saying in the same way as hearing a language you kinda know… if you want to communicate effectively, rather than carefully; if you want to get your message across rather than just cover your ass or try to sound important or clever – don’t use ‘corporate-speak’ or you’ll sound like what you are…

Psychologists (I trained to be one) and psychotherapists (particularly these) practice with this innate human ability and develop it to identify such things as incongruence – things that don’t quite add up. It’s called ‘leaking’. Also, behavioural and somatic (‘of the body’) signals; like a give-away movement or reddening (not always what they seem of course). It’s ‘how they know’. Actually, they’re not telepathic mentalists – you tell them, they’re just trained to notice. All this being said, everyone has the ability to discern this. It’s like breathing, everyone can do that too, some better than others, with training.

So, what of our overly deliberate, out of context, complicated mono-tonal folks that sound like their main concern is hearing back what they just said in court? Well, there’s two ways of dealing with this:

1.      Bless them they can’t help it, there’s no hope for them. Take a second or two to decide if they are saying anything useful at all and if not, just avoid them

2.      Speak normally to them and see if they are prepared to drop the façade – this is probably the best option to try first

There are tricks you can use to sound better over the phone, smiling, even forcibly, before you begin helps you sound better (it can wear off). It doesn’t work in person, false smiles… Don’t, you look like something from a Stephen King movie or the Stepford Wives.

The most genuine thing you can do is speak like you are speaking to someone you know and like. It’s best to be someone that knows and likes people to achieve this. That’s a whole different subject and that, surprisingly, with a change of perspective on the world, you can change for the better.

However, more than anything, just be natural, be ‘yourself’ as much as you can. If it’s someone you don’t know, don’t know well or is ‘important’, decide before you start what natural ‘is’. Take a moment to consider who you are going to communicate with and how you are going to enter their world. What do you want to do? Communicate with them effectively, without their need to translate what you’re saying or, exchange words?

Published by
Written in 2018, Paul King’s Article still has relevance now – in many areas of business
Corporate-speak; how not to communicate. What happened to our ability to just ‘talk’, naturally? Not everyone is going to warm to you, you, the natural ‘you’. However, isn’t life going to go much better for you, less ‘stressy’, if the people that communicate with you most do actually want to do so because the ‘get you’? hashtagcommunication hashtagcorporate hashtagbusiness hashtagnewzealand

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