Cut the Bull: Avoid Idiot-Speak
The paradigm shift empowering leading-edge advantage towards world class leadership is building momentum for… cut the bull, plain English please.
We’ve all read endless streams of corporate-speak: jargon-filled, filtered, and antiseptic ‑ rendering real communication all but impossible. For communicators it’s a slippery slope. While every industry has a unique language, accepted acronyms, and technical vocabulary, the trap for communicators is when we yield to company-speak and avoid the battle for clear, concise, communication.
In the wonderful book, Why Business People Speak Like Idiots, authors, Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky offer a compelling alternative. For those of us working in the communication trenches, the book is a valuable reminder of the slow brainwashing that over time can influence the way we choose to communicate.
And yes, it’s a choice. If your ambition is to serve as a mid-level bureaucrat using Mad-Libs fill-in-the-blank jargon for your next assignment, you will be well on your way to an all but invisible place on the org. chart. While remaining hidden behind fact-free, mind-numbing bulls*it seems a safe place to remain unseen, in a difficult business environment it’s also a sure way to an unceremonial pink slip. In a tough business climate, organizations need communicators who help strengthen the business, create compelling dialogues, and develop innovative ways to influence people.
The book exposes several common traps that can transform the unwary communicator into a boring business stiff:
1. Businesses focus on themselves over their audience
Too often those creating business communications aim to impress, not to inform. Rather than using plain, simple language everyone understands, business communicators fall back on the use of jargon or insider phrases. The authors describe it as becoming “a kind of intellectual powerhouse, generating concepts that are too lofty to be expressed in something as mundane as English.” We too often fear that straightforward language might make us look dumb.
2. Business people fear concrete language
Avoiding commitment, and thereby liability, has evolved into something of an art form. The problem with this approach is that through “vagary and verbosity,” the credibility of whatever follows is reduced. In short, people recognize B.S. and give up looking for meaning. Remember, for communicators the bottom line is to connect, convince, and help the organization move ahead.
3. Business is boring
How can you not purchase a book with a chapter titled “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll for Business People”? The authors offer a hilarious look at why business-speak is so ridiculous. They remind everyone in business that connecting with an audience, any audience, is about gaining their attention. “Make it relevant. Make it vivid. Make it compelling. Whether you like it or not, you’re in the entertainment business.” This admonition applies to everyone within an organization, none more so than those responsible for crafting communication messages.
The authors offer this key take away, “bullshit eats away at your personal capital, while straight talk pays dividends.” Make the wise investment, fight the bull and make clear, compelling communication the hallmark of your personal success.