Translation, Please

We New Yorkers are plain spoken folks.  “What the hell is wrong with you?” is the sort of question we ask.  It’s not just rhetorical, we really want to know! For example.  An acquaintance approaches you and your child in the park, sits down and starts a conversation with “What a nice little…girl… you have!  Girl, right? But seriously, you shouldn’t let her suck her thumb like that.  It will a) warp her teeth or b) ruin her thumb, or c) some other harebrained thought that just popped into my head.” 

If it was good enough for Truman, it’s good enough for the CEO.

That’s when, as a New Yorker, I would fix this person with a piercing glare, furrow my brows, and ask “what the hell is wrong with you?  Who died and left you in charge?  Why don’t you mind your own business?”  Problem solved.

I don’t disagree with you.

Alas, as soon as one problem is solved, a new one arises.  It is just possible I might inadvertently piss off someone with this kind of straight-talking, shoot-from-the-hip style.  Someone like my own boss at work, perhaps.  After a while, it becomes clear that a google-translate from reality to business speak would come in very handy.  After all, you can’t very well sit in the boardroom surrounded by captains of industry, glare at the CFO, and ask “what the hell is wrong with you?”  OK, technically, you CAN do it, but it won’t end well, even if you subtract the admittedly gratuitous reference to hell.

“What the hell is wrong with you” is on page 76.

That’s where a simple suite of go-to, ready made corporate phrases that can convey meaning in a more, ahem, subtle manner are worth their weight in gold.  They work, because everyone else can do the mental math in their heads and find out exactly what you mean.  Here are some that will help. 

Who is best positioned to validate that?

My personal favorite.  Translation:  he’s lying.  This one is great to trot out when some lying bastard is trying to gaslight everyone about something.  Instead of saying “that lying bastard is trying to gaslight everyone,” you put on your neutral poker face and ask this question.  It’s brilliant, because it is not a yes/no question.  You’re not asking “is this lying bastard trying to gaslight us?”  No.  You’re asking who ELSE you can talk to.  It’s the corporate-speak equivalent of “is there a grownup at home, little boy?”

I don’t disagree.

Translation:  I do disagree. It’s almost Shakespearean in its simplicity.  There’s a scene in Macbeth, when Macduff’s liegeman has to break the news to him that Macbeth has killed his (Macduff’s) wife and children.  This is a tough sell.  When Macduff, in his shock, continues to question if it be so, his friend seems to waiver a bit.  It’s a touching moment in theater.  It’s somewhat less touching during a meeting when some idiot is sounding off about things they know not of.  Just trot out this bad boy, and follow it up with blandly stated facts that disprove every stupid thing your colleague just said.

The best production of Macbeth ever? I don’t disagree…

A gentle reminder that…

Translation:  *snap*snap* Wake up pal!  What am I, chopped liver?  This one is to be used in emails only.  It means that you know that they are ignoring you and you aren’t going to go quietly.  You have to attach the first email you sent them 2 months ago with your original question, and then follow up daily for another week.  If your company has IM (and most of them do by now, it’s 2019 for crying out loud), a simple ping flashing “hello” or “hi” might also do the trick.  The translation is still the same.

It might be fruitful to run some analysis on those assumptions.

Translation: he’s lying, and I can prove it.  Try bringing some cold hard evidence in the form of facts and figures into one of these conversations, if you dare.  People hate that!  They’ll deny you’re right, so be sure to stick your nose slightly skyward and quote another expert, preferably British. People hate that even more!   “According to The Economist, the percentage of women in boardrooms at Fortune 500 companies is 2 percent, not 50 percent.”  They won’t dare correct you by blurting out “no, no!  It’s 4 percent!” because that makes them look like the gallingly stupid liar they so clearly are.  They can deny that your facts are correct, they can attack you personally, or they can declare themselves the winner by fiat.  Just stay silent and smile a secret smile that lets everyone else in the room know what’s going on.

The boys in analytics are checking your shit now.

If it were up to me, I’d be happy to supply you with that information, but I’ll have to clear it with Compliance to make sure it’s not sensitive material.

Translation: What the hell is wrong with you?  Who died and left you in charge?  Why don’t you mind your own business? 

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