January 15, 2020

Griggs: Throwing Shade: OK Boomer — Google it, millennial!

Terms like “Ok boomer” and “throwing shade” remind me of a younger friend telling me to “Get your act together Rick.” New to me at the time, it pre-dated empty utterances such as “In terms of…’’ and “At the end of the day.” My friend’s getting your act together advice is now commonly understood. Every generation seems to get an iconic label and a mysterious vocabulary.

For the wise, if you want to excel in personal and work communication, learn the new popular terms but be careful using them. If you must, let those fanciful flourishes come up sparingly and specifically. A catchy meme is fresh for only a few months — at most a year or two. After that, they are overused by the unprepared and unimaginative.

Think of it this way. If you want your bosses or co-workers to stay attentive and capture the core of your message stop reciting lines that show little original thought. Your message rings out when sprinkled with a fresh mix of your own thoughtful words. Your communication triples in impact when you prepare a timely message that avoids the tired jargon of the average speaker. Clarity of speech is not arrogance — it’s the mark of a professional.

Ok boomer is used to gently denigrate or condescend to baby boomers — those born between 1945 and 1965. If you have yet to hear the concoction relax — you will. It is being juggled by cartoonists, bloggers, comedians and politicians. Watch the bookshelves — it’ll be there shortly.

If, like me, you hate being left behind, let’s pivot, drill down, throw some shade and unpack a narrative on evidence-based blockchains — ‘if you will’:

Drill down — This one has been around for decades. Drill down makes me think of someone wanting to look tough and no-nonsense while exhorting the team to get to work and buckle down.

Pivot — A fading favorite from the last news cycle that seemed popular with facilitators, newscasters and journalists. “Let’s pivot” might have sounded cool until every other speaker started using it.

Unpack — Here’s one that seems to thrive among broadcasters and interview hosts. Following news clips and Twitter transcripts, the host turns to the evening’s invited guests and asks them to unpack all that has happened. Nothing allows an audience to lose attention more than an over-used term.

Narrative — Suddenly, everyone has a narrative. Like the central theme in a book or play or the memorized talking points of a politician, this term gets tossed in for effect or because the speaker can’t think of anything better.

“If-you-will” — What in the world does this mean? Certain speakers use this as a filler like the “ums” every speech instructor tries to eliminate. Their paragraphs begin or end with if you will.

Evidence-based — This scientific-sounding maxim has taken a swan-dive into fields from education to medicine, pet care to boxing. Historically covered by terms like the scientific method or experimental design, the term evidence-based is quite helpful by insisting on rigor when claiming causation. Let’s hope it doesn’t get overused. In an article on personal workouts, a Georgetown University professor described her love for boxing adding that she was “super evidence-based” in researching serious injuries in her weight class.

Let’s wait and see where ok boomer goes. We’ll either be done with it in a year or it will burrow itself into the lexicon. I’m not hearing baby boomers complain about the new term. Busy paying down mortgages or using cash for a good used vehicle — they don’t complain much. Maybe they’re just proud to pronounce the ’t’ in important and the ‘d’ in the middle of didn’t. Who knows, boomers may strike back with something like Google it, millennial?

Generational sniping aside, at the end of the day it sounds like the narrative is catching on — speak clearly, if you will. We just have to drill down and get our act together.

I’m just throwing a little shade — ok reader?

Rick Griggs is a former Intel Corp. training manager and inventor of the rolestorming creativity tool. He runs the 10-month Leadership Mastery Academy. rick.griggs83@gmail.com or 970-690-7327.

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