Does the word send a chill down your spine? In a recent workshop I delivered, a participant shared that “feedback” has gotten such a bad rep that she has changed to using the term “feedforward.” Feedforward reminds her and the person she is talking to that the information being shared is meant to provide an opportunity for growth. 

Parking Lot.

Many facilitators will write this on an easel pad and put it up in the meeting to use for items that come up during the meeting that we won’t be discussing directly but should be kept for future discussion or action. Ideas are “parked” here for later. At a recent meeting the facilitator used “Bike Lot” instead. It struck me as odd since as a bike commuter I take great liberties in locking my bike to any stationary object and wouldn’t think if corralling it with others in the way of a car, but I appreciated the momentary pause I got from reflecting on why “parking lot” was being replaced with “bike lot.” That said, I would have preferred that the meeting would have switched to reusable mugs and a real coffee maker instead of a K-cup machine instead of merely a semantic nod to sustainability.


I facilitate organizational retreats, and recently another facilitator told me that she was changing her language for this term. Retreat sounds like we are running away from something. Retreat sounds like we are losing. Retreat is often misleading because the group is not even leaving their workplace. Valid points. Her new term is “Advance.” I haven’t switched over since Advance doesn’t feel right to me either. Advance conjures up academic levels or military ministrations. It’s tough to switch over to a new term when the old one has such cultural adoption. It’s like in Mean Girls, “Stop trying to make fetch happen.”

Side note: I just made a cultural reference that will probably only be understood by those born within 5 years of me (1980-1990 approximately). As someone who was the youngest person in most meetings for about 10 years, I have felt what it feels like to miss all of the cultural references.  Recent examples that have been used in meetings that I didn’t relate to M*A*S*H, The Andy Griffith Show, The Brady Bunch. 

I realize that I am getting older because I am finally hearing references to my own teen year favorite shows/music/toys, etc. from speakers and facilitators. However, I can’t even enjoy it because I look around the room and see all of my older colleagues being left out. Takeaway: beware of specific cultural references used to make a point because they will create a divide in the room of those who get them and connect and those who feel left out.

What terms do you rethink, reframe, or rephrase? Has changing your language made a difference in your group’s outcomes?