Looking Forward to Monday Mornings
A series of essays on business, architecture, and the business of architecture.
Trigger Words
by Daniel Frisch
Posted March 2nd, 2019

We have created an in-house glossary of “trigger words.” When we hear them, we smile as if hearing an inside joke. For your enjoyment, here’s our running list:

“No”. Everyone in my life, especially my two adorable children, knows this little word raises the hair on my neck. While we cherish argument and spirited discourse, “No” does little to build consensus.

“But.” Another little word, similar to “No” above. If you’ve been reading these essays, you can easily understand how “Yes,….And” is preferable to “Yes,…But.” “But” is a contraction we try to replace with “And” whenever possible.

“Unequivocal.” I remember studying for the SAT in high school, and one of the tricks we were taught was to challenge the veracity of questions or statements featuring the word “Always.” Today our trigger word is ”Unequivocal.” When we hear of an unequivocal recommendation, we know to equivocate.

“No Problem.” When we hear this, especially from our contracting partners, our ears perk up, and we think we may, indeed, have a problem. “No problem, it will happen first thing tomorrow.” Really? Or, as Danny Meyer, says in Setting the Table, “No Problem” is no substitute for “You Are Welcome” as a response to “Thank You.”

“Change Order.” If we were to ask most clients, what was most challenging during their project, I would expect to hear “Change Orders” near the top of the list. Nothing puts owners and contractors at odds more quickly than late or inflated change orders. Notwithstanding, most change orders are based on additional work or unforeseen circumstances, rather than changes, and all change orders are reviewed for appropriateness by our office before being approved, so change orders should not be so confrontational. In response, I’ve spoken a great deal about this over the years, and we are finally making headway at replacing the subject line of our contractors’ paperwork to read “Additional Work Authorization” rather than “Change Order.”

“I Mean You No Disrespect,” and “Respectfully,….” While not unequivocally true, when someone attempts to soften a blow with either of these introductions, we are prepared for an opinion wildly divergent from our own, and my guess is the next statement will not be offered up respectfully. We consider the “respect” intro as nothing more than a little white lie clueing us into a low regard for our position.

“Constructive Criticism.” Usually prefaced with “May I give you a little….,” We’ve found little to be constructive in such offers. Such invitations usually trigger our own form of response: “So Noted.”

“I Strongly Disagree.” A number of years ago, an associate, a client and I were all discussing the cost effectiveness and cost benefit of a specific floating counter detail and after a spirited debate, the client and I voted for the simpler, more durable, and less costly detail. Our frustrated associate, blowing off some steam, blurted out, “But,… I Strongly Disagree.” Adding such emphasis did nothing to sway or change the asked and answered decision, and most importantly, did not reflect well on our young associate – although the statement has provided us a quote from our own archives on par with similar lines from A Few Good Men.

“Impossible.” Just another challenge to overcome.