“Let’s circle back.” The phrase we’ve all used at least once to end a meeting that’s either gone on too long or is about to make us commit to something before we’re ready. Would it be easier to say, I’m not ready to give you an answer yet, Stan? Absolutely. But...no, no, better not. Circling back is polite. Circling back is safe. Circling back is your friend.
It is a bit boring, though. These alternatives would surely spice up your meetings—if only you could really use them.
'Let’s make like the Jennifer Lopez Super Bowl halftime show and shimmy our way into a brief commercial break'
Speak the language of your male-dominated industry by infusing your work jargon with sports references! This one features both an empowering woman who is arguably in the best shape of all of our lives and a polarizing American sport. So relatable.
'Let me marinate that chicken overnight and call you when the oven’s hot'
Use this on your sexist coworker who makes off-color jokes about women belonging in the kitchen. Points for being ultra-specific about the recipe: I’ll use a balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and brown sugar mixture and bake that puppy at 350 degrees for 35 minutes—an old family recipe. Could you bring a side?
Slowly bring the meeting to a close with a soft but long-winded “shhhhh” to encourage a state of rest in both your team and the project for the time being. As the silence ensues, consider inviting your coworkers to assume a shavasana pose while you play some music you Shazam-ed in a hotel lobby.
'Let’s wait for the crimson tide to come in again on this one'
No, you’re not a’Bama graduate or a fan of the 1995 war thriller starring Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington—you’re a woman! With a period! And you’d like about 28 days to think over everything your team has brought to the table. Clear as hormonal acne, amirite?
'Good feedback all around, but before we make any decisions, I’d like to put this conversation on a mental loop and cry about it in my shower'
Particularly stressful meeting? No problem! In this scenario, your version of “let’s circle back” conveys the breakup-level emotional turmoil you feel at the changes that may or may not come from what was discussed. Everyone is on the same page, and as for you, dear, tomorrow, tomorrow is another day
In the same vein as “shhhh,” noises are much more effective at impressing the need to circle back than anything else. If you’re on a video call and fear your desire to round up your thoughts and return will be overruled (let’s unravel that thought spiral sometime), scream and look offscreen, absolutely horrified. Then hang up. They’ll be overjoyed at your eventual return….or will they?
'Let’s wait for the tea to cool before we move to the porch'
A uniquely Southern approach to circling back, and a practical one, because if you don’t wait for a fresh brew to reach a less-than-steaming temperature, the ice cubes will melt, it’ll get watered down, and you’ll be sweating on a wraparound in July with nothing to quench your thirst. What will the neighbors say? Mamma will never let you speak to that boy Noah from the lumberyard again.
'Why don’t we harbor the Mayflower for a few days before we journey to the New World?'
It’s true, we do learn the most about moving forward by looking back. A targeted ad on Pinterest told me that. The Mayflower sailed for 66 days, and you don’t want to embark on that kind of adventure without the assurance of predestination. Perhaps, when making this pronouncement, don a coif and a waistcoat for authenticity. The original Cape Cod attire.
'Before we do-si-do all day, let’s find this square dance a caller'
This makes zero sense—and yet? There’s no way all the dancers at this shindig (your coworkers, your office) can collaborate before you have a guiding post, a common interest of sorts. Swing your partners round, then start again at square one (sorry) with fresh boots and a fresh attitude.