Sunday, August 1, 2010

They're Just Words...Aren't They?

Such care must we take, lest others we offend. Verily, it must be so or berated we would not be, for using what seem to be innocuous terms...
A seminar organiser was scolded recently for asking the attendees to do some brain-storming. The phrase conjures up images of the zip-zap of lively debate...but no. 'Brainstorming' is not PC, lest it be perceived as referring to the electrical disturbances that are part of epilepsy! I jest not! The Politically Correct phrase to use now to describe a hectic exchange of ideas is...thought shower. How wet that sounds. How limp. Wait...what's that...'tis the drip, drip, drip of opinions cascading from above..!
Of course, because news now comes in sound bites and headlines, clever word manipulation is mandatory in politics and business. And some people make a good living, telling people how to do it. Thus oil companies benignly explore for energy, not wantonly drill for oil. And some expressions have become infamous: enhanced interrogation techniques are no more appealing than torture ever was.
One of USA’s most influential word wranglers, Frank Luntz (author of Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear) says, if you’re a business / political leader, five words you should be using now are: consequences (because people think there should be consequences), impact (because we want to know what’s really happening), reliability (because we’re sick of things not working), mission (because we want to know our leaders really care), and commitment (because we care that leaders are personally committed to things, and not just making empty promises). He says 'being on a mission' is different from dreaming up some cold corporate "mission statement". Remember those? What a crock of s*** they all were!
There're a few words that should be on the Good Words For Leaders list: truth, authenticity, and honesty...though today if someone in charge says they’re giving us the honest truth, that just reeks of being inauthentic. Ha! It’s got to the point where we're doubting everything we hear on the news!
(...with thanx to Lindsey Dawson at Grownups New Zealand)

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