“The word ‘whatever’ should never, ever be used. It is a throwaway word. Anyone who hears you say it thinks you don’t give a hoot about any decision that needs to be made.” So said an early mentor, Wilford Butler, who made me get a proper haircut and learn how to order wine. He was right. Taylor Swift could write a song about it.
The problem is not the word itself. The problem is that any time the word is used it means you are not making a choice — and life is all about small choices. Seemingly small decisions are a part of each and every workday, and it is easy to ignore them. When the word “whatever” is used as a reply, you are simply not making a decision. Try these situation tidbits on for size…
- Where do you want to go for lunch? Whatever!
- Which project team do you want to be on? Whatever!
- Do you want to meet with customers this week? Whatever!
- Are you interested in a promotion? Whatever!
- Your dog may be dying. Whatever!
It took me a while to realize that, however important to a life, the really big decisions are few. Where one lives, one’s faith, one’s spouse, all about children, where one goes to college are just some of the big ones. Try to make all the right big choices. But when it comes to all the smaller ones, don’t defer, don’t say whatever. Never ever.
Careful analysis reveals the following possible definitions of the whatever word:
- I don’t care.
- You make the decision for me; I will blame you later.
- If I knew the answer, I would tell you. So leave me alone.
- I am not listening.
- Of all the options presented, none are good, but I will make you suffer with my ambivalence.
- I am really pissed off and will hold you responsible for the decision you make for me.
- I don’t have an opinion so I will fill the air with this useless word.
- I am resigned to being a victim.
The word should only be used in sentences like, “I love you and will win your affections whatever it takes.”
Using the word “whatever” is a bad habit like showing PowerPoint slides with print too small to read. Break the habit, before all those small decisions slip away. It’s not all the word, it’s about being ambivalent, wishy-washy or being labeled as someone who’s “not all in.”
Be all in. It makes a difference in your career and your life.