Say what you mean and mean what you say. Here are 10 clichés guaranteed to irritate your colleagues: we explain what they really mean and what to say instead.

1. Can I borrow you for a sec?

Mistakenly considered a polite way to ask for someone’s time. In fact, the interpretation is more usually: ‘I’m about to get a telling off’. You want to speak with someone? Go ahead and say so.

2. Just playing devil's advocate.

Are you feeling argumentative? The sentiment is fine: ‘let’s look at things from a different perspective’, so why not say just that instead?

3. Pick your brains.

Usually means ‘I'll pass your ideas off as my own’. What’s wrong with saying ‘let’s talk through some ideas together’?

4. Think outside the box.

­­This is all about saying we need some new ideas. Get creative and demand the same from your colleagues. There’s no excuse for old-fashioned solutions.  

5. Get your ducks in a row.

Get organised and be straightforward. Isn’t that straightforward now?

6. Keep me in the loop

A euphemism for ‘I'm nosy and I can't bear to miss out’ or, worse, ‘I’m controlling and I need to check up on you.’  ‘Let me know how it’s going’ works just fine.

7. Dial it up

Don’t interpret this as ‘make a phone call’. It’s all about amplification and acceleration. Get busy, get focused and get results.

8. Bite the bullet.

Originated in the US civil war when wounded soldiers would clench a bullet between their teeth to distract from the pain. In plain English try simply ‘make a tough decision’.

9. Blue sky thinking.

Another way of saying ‘we need to think a bit further ahead because times are changing and we can’t stand still.’ Or, see number 4, and get back to basics by just demanding – and expecting - good, ambitious ideas.

10. Win-win

You have the ideas; I'll take the credit.   There’s no good way to say this. Try, ‘we’ll keep everyone happy that way’. Or forget it.