A new expression is sneaking into everyday conversation and I do NOT like it at all. In fact, it angers me. I don’t know who started it; or where it started. But of even greater interest is how it has managed to take hold in every day conversation.
Have you noticed that, when communicating with businesses (particularly larger companies who are more prone to faddy jargons), they don’t thank you for calling them these days; they thank you for ‘reaching out’ to them. If you have been referred to them through one of their workmates then they might thank you for ‘reaching out’ to their colleague first.
“Reaching out” has become interchangeable with any term which falls under the banner of ‘communicating’, be that ‘phoning’, ‘speaking’, ‘emailing’ or whatever.
When I enquired about a mortgage, the bank thanked me for ‘reaching out’; when I followed up on an advert for fancy new bed linen the person who answered the phone said ‘it was great’ that I had decided to ‘reach out’ to them today. Hell, someone even thanked me for ‘reaching out’ when THEY cold-called ME!
Now, to anyone with half a brain, it is obvious that this new expression has come into play with the best of intentions. It sounds more ‘human’ and ‘touchy-feely’. Phoning, speaking and emailing can be clinical forms of contact. But ‘reaching out’ is a different matter altogether. It implies that there is some genuine emotion underlying our communications with each other. That, and a desire to reach satisfactory fulfilment, because if someone ‘reached out’ to you as opposed to simply ‘contacting you’ then you could not possibly let them down.
But that is precisely why I find it so irritating; because the emotion at which it hints is one sided. ‘Reaching out’ suggests a clingy neediness on the part of the person who is allegedly ‘reaching out’.
It suggest that this person needs help or salvation. Don’t get me wrong – there is a time and a place for it. For example, if I was religious and in a state of despair then I may ‘reach out’ to Jesus. If I were drowning I might ‘reach out’ to my rescuer. If a waitress was about to take my plate away when it still had a few chips on it, I would ‘reach out’ and grab it (or her).
I would NOT, however, ‘reach out’ to my bank, or to any utility company, or to the dry cleaners. I would simply ‘contact’ them, as an equal party to whatever was the matter in hand. If I want to be pedantic (and I do) I might argue that, in openly offering their services, the companies who use this offensive expression, have actually ‘reached out’ to me first.
I am always in danger of losing it over small things like this. If you poke the beehive what do you expect? In fact, I am a ‘ball hair’ away from saying all of the things I have dreamt of in response to meaninliness, repetitive service expressions.
When the hundredth checkout person asks if I want a hand to pack my carton of soya milk (which I am not even packing as I won’t pay 5p for the bag) would anyone blame me if I simply said, in a sing song voice, ‘No, I f*cking don’t’.
When their colleague asks ‘was there anything else you needed today’ while forty people wait behind me at the checkout – I may one day say “Why yes, I need the patience to stay calm in the face of such a stupid f*cking question”.
But I digress. I often declare that my middle years should be peaceful and that tolerance levels and violent reactions should remain at an all time low. But it would be helpful if there were not so many triggers, and the inference that I am ‘reaching out’ – when I am not, is just another one to add to the list.
So the plan is this. I now realise that I can avoid irritation by simply beating people to it. To use my earlier examples, when I enquired about a mortgage I could have started the conversation by quickly thanking the bank for ‘reaching out’ to ME with their generous interest rate.
Would Mr Sykes have risked looking foolish just to stick to his script (Thanks for reaching out to me with that bank flyer Mr Sykes – No, No, thank YOU Ms Ritchie for reaching out to ME). You see what I mean?
The only problem is that, in order to get in first, I will need to say it at the very start of every conversation regardless of whether the person planned to say it to me. And in that way, ‘reaching out’ will become incorpated into ALL of my communications, as opposed to just a few.
Now why does that sound like such a crap solution……..?