After almost two years of zoom working, we’re on our way to becoming fluent in the language of remote working. Nevertheless, as we edge the two year pandemic mark in March, let’s take a look at some phrases we are done hearing on Zoom, Google Chat and other remote working platforms. This article is inspired by Harvard Business Review’s article on a similar topic. 

Dramatisations: “It’s been a nightmare!”

Even if it has been a nightmare, repeating that whatever project you’re working on has been a difficult challenge is a poor way to show your cards. Firstly, even if this is not your intention, commenting on the difficulty of the project may unintentionally feel like you’re suggesting that whoever you are talking to (client or colleague) may be to blame. Furthermore, as a freelancer, it may come across as an inability to tackle a challenge thus preventing you from getting hired again. You can of course acknowledge that the project presented sme challenges but mention so once and follow the statement with concrete justifications. 

The imperative “you’re on mute”

Imperative phrases commenting on someone else’s Zoom status can feel a little aggressive. It  can make the person on the receiving end of the comment feel silly, as though (two years into widespread remote work) they still don’t know how to locate the button with the microphone icon. A gentler, more affirming, “If you’re speaking, I can’t hear you” may be more fitting. Instead of making the silent speaker feel silly, this reframing shows them that you truly want to hear what it is they have to say.

“We’re learning on the job/ seeing how it goes”

While this phrase is honest and transparent (which are great qualities) it may leave the client feeling insecure about the project. Perhaps we can be more specific by identifying the pieces of the project that we’ve figured out, what we’re still working on, what we don’t know yet, and how we plan to make adjustments based on what we learn.

“Let’s take this offline” without specifying how

Without a clear, quick mention of how and when this “offline” conversation will take place, this is a jargony way to dismiss someone’s idea and put them off indefinitely. And since any meaningful follow-up will likely take place online, it also no longer makes sense. Why not go with something like this: “That’s an important topic that’s beyond the scope of this meeting. I’ll email you when we wrap up.”

“We were are running ten minutes ahead but now that we’re all here” and talk about a completely different topic

Time doesn’t always correlate with concentration. Ten more minutes talking about the same topic feels very different than ten new minutes addressing an entirely different issue. If a meeting is running 10 minutes early, simply congratulate the productiveness of the meeting and suggest that the new topic be addressed in a new meeting tomorrow or even later that day so people can compartmentalise different activities with efficiency. 

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