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Am I right?

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What not to say in a meeting

Have you picked up on the latest word to invade everyone’s speech? If you’ve been listening closely, you’ve noticed a small, five-letter word has taken over everyday conversations, right?

The first problem with the “right?” phenomenon is that it’s simply annoying. Once you know it’s an overused word, you’ll begin to hear it ending sentences everywhere – on TV, at church and of course, at meetings. Beyond the fact that it’s annoying, the more concerning problem is the word’s effect on how we communicate.

Rarely is “right?” used as a sincere question. The speaker’s intonation signals a question, but the speaker then rushes into the next sentence without pausing to listen for an answer, which poses the biggest problem with the word — its forced acquiescence. What if I don’t agree with what you’re saying? Am I allowed to interrupt you and say “Wait, I don’t know that you’re right”?

Consider this example:

Friend: I just saw “Will & Grace” is coming back and I’m so excited! Grace is so funny, right? I can’t wait for the show to air — I better make sure my DVR is set to record it.

I happen to think Grace is annoying and not funny at all, so by simply letting the question, “Grace is so funny, right?” go, I am, in essence, agreeing with something I don’t think is accurate at all.

While the example above is trivial, I become frustrated in meetings when someone is explaining something to me and mid-way through the explanation adds, “right?” to the end of a sentence. I want to jump in and say “Wait, I don’t know that’s right, let’s talk about it to make sure we’re being accurate,” but I can’t do that without being rude.

So what are we to do with this pervasive word? Let’s start by simply listening for it. Maybe we’re guilty of using it ourselves (and we can begin removing it from our speech) or someone close to us is (and we can gently tell them to knock it off, right?).

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