What’s friendly about the assumption you’ve forgotten something?

I have a polite request: can we all just agree to retire the phrase, ‘a friendly reminder’?

We all know there is nothing friendly about a reminder. In fact the very phrase is the king-hit of passive aggression. It makes you wonder what’s coming next. What happens if I ignore this friendly reminder……. will the unfriendly reminder be following on its heels followed by the trolling reminder, followed by the violent intent reminder, followed by the knee-capping reminder, followed by the concrete boots reminder?

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By which time presumably it’s too late.

Friendly reminders have intruded deep into everyday life and once they’re in the business vocabulary there’s no stopping them – or the corrosive resentment they, like all passive aggression, engender.

To remind should not carry any emotive connotation with it what so ever – a reminder is just that, a reminder, so why friendly? In saying that it has become friendly it is automatically sinister and it tempts you into ignoring it just for the sake of it. It speaks of, “you don’t want me to become angry do you, because if I have to remind you again, then there will be trouble.”

So in actual fact a friendly reminder is more closely akin to an order, there is absolutely nothing in the phrase that resembles anything with a free will or friendly component to it. The term is in short, mendacious and manipulative. I simply could never say it to anyone; I would feel like a fake.

This annoying, finger-waving intrusion of aid-memoire into our lives has taken an altogether more sinister tone with its adoption by the artificially intelligent.

Take my car. My cheeky red French number (that regularly tries to mess with my mind), fired off a friendly reminder to service her – in the mechanical sense you understand – that was followed up by the car dealership also texting a friendly reminder to back up what the car was telling me.

I’d noticed that the car had become very snappy with me of late, she had started automatically locking before I could reach the boot after exiting the driver’s seat, she screamed at me to put a seat-belt on my handbag if I left it sitting on the front passenger seat, she decided not to tell me when I was parking too close to a car behind me, then sniggered when it resulted in a gentle touch-park.

And the final straw, which drove me to the keyboard, was when I heard her make a derogatory remark about my appearance – (ok maybe that wasn’t the car). Either way, I think I know that it’s time for her service and all I needed was a reminder – but not a friendly one because now I feel tempted to ignore it and henceforth deepen the war between us.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to remind is indeed a verb, it has its origins in mid-17th century English derived from ‘re’ (as in again) married with the verb ‘mind’, so therefore it works perfectly on its own. A reminder is the noun form of remind and friendly is an adjective, which makes a friendly reminder an odd coupling. It’s like a friendly insistence.

I myself am reminded of the punk cartoon character of the late 80s Max Headroom who would complain “asking is just polite demanding”.

Where will it all end? Should German cars have the “Dummkopf” reminder button that goes off when you are nano-seconds away from running out of petrol? Should mobile phones be fitted with a “You’re Just Fabulous” reminder designed to go off in the middle of a performance review? Or a “Don’t bother coming home” reminder when you’ve forgotten your partner’s birthday?  Give me back the plain old unencumbered reminder reminder. It is what it is.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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