Stop Saying “So”

August 15, 2012

“So, hey, you’ve got that report ready for review at 4 o’clock, right?”
“So, uh…I thought I had until Monday for that…”
“‘SO-A?’? No, not on SOA, on ‘World Domination and All Things Evil.’”
“So…no, I said, ‘so, uh‘…”
“…So…I don’t really know what you’re saying to me, but if you could have that report ready by 4, it would be great…”

This type of conversations absolutely drives me up the fucking wall. I hear it in one form or another multiple times a day, and only after actually taking the time to write it down did it finally occur to me what was so intolerable about this type of weak speech: it’s the word “so”. Somehow — and I’m not sure when this happened — “so” became the staple of passive-aggressive prose in the workplace, preceding any statements that the speaker might foresee as being potentially disruptive or ill-received. For some reason, people think that it’s a diffusing technique. When I hear it, I instantly — possibly subconsciously, even — label the speaker as preeminently defensive and ineffectively manipulative.

Stop pussy-footing around your point. Worried you’ll lose your job for what you’re about to say? Hire a communication coach to teach you how to effectively articulate your point while maintaining an open, honest, direct and respectful approach. Still worried about losing your job? Find another one! Don’t waste your time in an environment where your perspectives will be discouraged unless you can dilute them with weak, indirect language. Seriously, avoid saying “so” as much as possible, and when you’re tempted to, ask yourself why. While it may seem to keep tempers down in the workplace and buy you a little time to write your reports, it comes across as if you’re either trying to mask your incompetence or stall while you think of an answer the person wants to hear. Either way, it’s not good. Don’t do it anymore, okay?

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John is a serial conversationalist who spends entirely too much time engulfed in problem domains he knows nothing about and has no earthly business trying to learn. He can occasionally be found at your local coffee shop writing algorithms and trying to think deep thoughts.