The most irritating phrases in British business

Now bear with me on this, it will literally take a second. You’re busy? But with all due respect, we need to touch base because, at the end of the day, it is really time for you to step up to the plate. Are these irritating phrases ones you hear frequently bandied about your workplace? Perhaps you would even hold your hand up to uttering on or two of them yourself? If you had you wouldn’t be alone. The use of annoying buzzwords and phrases is seeping into our vocabulary almost without us realising, and turning us into walking, talking clichés. And the unfortunate effect is muddy, sloppy communication that doesn’t achieve its aim: that is, clear understanding between sender and receiver.

Endurance of a torturous experience

Bear with me is a phrase oft used in the service industry, parroted chirpily down the phone is response to a small request for information, or when being connected perhaps. To bear with something implies endurance of a torturous experience, it might be a useful phrase for a dentist in the middle of a tricky extraction but is certainly not the impression that should be given to a caller over the telephone.

Literally, once taken to mean in a literal or exact sense has, through popular misuse of the word, come to be used as a shortcut to emphasis. And so we hear it all the time, “I was literally exhausted”, “it was literally so busy”. And when we use lazy vernacular in this way, our meaning becomes meaningless and the emphasis that we wished to place becomes diminished.

We’re all part of the game.

Another trend appears to be in the misconception that we are all engaged in a game of baseball. Step up to the plate, touch base, ballpark figure, a whole new ball-game, take a rain-cheque, curve-ball. There are a plethora of baseball related phrases that business people in particular are adopting as their own but it is worth considering what using these terms imply about us. Similar to our attire, tone of voice or body language, the types of words that we use help others to develop an impression of us, and unless you are heading out to pitch for the New York Yankees, it might be better to select different ones. And the sporting lingo doesn’t end with baseball, how often do colleagues talk of shifting goalposts and close of play? 

Then there are the irritating phrases that verge on patronising. You know the ones, “it’s not rocket science”, a term that can be used to simultaneously belittle others whilst proclaiming our own virtues to all and sundry. Or the faux obsequious “with all due respect”, a phrase that people use to apologise in advance for what they are about to say. Perhaps if you are aware that the words to follow are likely to cause offence, it would be better to leave them unsaid. Similarly “at the end of the day” oft employed as a precursor to an insult or as a redeemer for our behaviour.

We have of course merely dipped our toes into the water of irritating phrases, there are countless other examples that will no doubt spring to mind as you read this article. And as you go about your daily life today, interacting with your colleagues, customers, friends and family, pay a little more attention to the words and phrases you use. You may be literally shocked.


Luxury Academy London

Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London,, a multi-national private training company with offices in London, Delhi and Vishakhapatnam. Luxury Academy London specialise in leadership, communication and business etiquette training for companies and private clients across a wide range of sectors. Prior to founding Luxury Academy London, Paul worked in senior leadership roles across Europe, United States, Middle East and Asia. A dynamic trainer and seminar leader, Paul has designed and taught courses, workshops and seminars worldwide on a wide variety of soft skills.