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October 4, 2023

Surprisingly, Using Alternatives to ‘STFU, Donny’ in Meetings Not That Difficult

You know how some of your colleagues like to hijack a meeting with something unrelated and it throws everything off track? You know how you wish you could inform them that if they don't shut their big trap you'll be forced to rename them "Donny" so you can address them poignantly when they inevitably interrupt in the future?

You know how that would really go over? Right, not well. Fortunately, the Harvard Business Review is here to save you from working TBL quotes into work scenarios:

[T]here is a simple solution to this predicament: the word “jellyfish.” Jellyfish are, of course, those funny-looking creatures with no brain, no blood, and no heart that have drifted along on ocean currents for millions of years. We use the word to prevent meetings from drifting.

Here’s how it works. At the start of your gathering, introduce the jellyfish ground rule: If any attendee feels the conversation is heading off course or delving into an inappropriate level of detail, they can and should employ the word to indicate that opinion. Simply say “jellyfish” or “I think we’re having a jellyfish moment” or “Gee, did I just see a jellyfish swim by?” It’s a catchall for “Why don’t you take this offline — the rest of us would like our meeting back.”

The authors reason that saying something to the effect of, “This is really interesting, but can I suggest we get back to the topic at hand?” is more awkward than "jellyfish." And yes, I suppose “This is really interesting, but can I suggest we get back to the topic at hand?” would be more awkward if you were taking off your pants while saying it. But blurting out a spineless sea creature that stings things that get too close to communicate someone's unwelcome, irrelevant input? That's not awkward? Maybe my awkward tolerance is low.

Anyway, the authors do admit that you can use a "similarly silly word" so if you have better ideas, go ahead and share those now. Try to avoid invertebrates.



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