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A real and genuine problem with the use of, frankly, insincere language



The ‘hard-headed businessman’ is a common trope, and one that people still think they should aspire to. However, there is a shift in modern times towards a more human and emotional aspect to business: the advent of ’emotional intelligence’. Companies are increasingly proud of their more humane approach to human resource management, but even here, the term is misunderstood with the ‘intelligence’ part of the phrase giving rise to the belief that EQ (to which emotional intelligence is abbreviated) is a skill that can be mastered or learned. Instead, what is required is the ability to show genuine warmth and feeling – this is not a skill that can easily be taught in a classroom!

What can be taught are methods of dealing with others that inspire trust and also the use of language that both welcomes others – making them feel as though they are part of something special – and that speaks directly to them – neither patronising them with ‘dumbed down’ verbiage, nor overwhelming them with jargon. Such language should be simple and heartfelt, easily understood and leaving no loopholes to trick the listener into believing that they have heard a promise, when in fact they have not.

And finally, modifiers should be avoided wherever possible. Phrases like, ‘believe me,’ anything containing the word ‘honesty’ or ‘honestly’ (in all honesty, honestly, as an honest man/ woman, if I’m honest, the honest truth), or ‘trust me’ all simply open up the possibility of dishonesty, mistrust and disbelief. This is especially noticeable since Trump’s recent shock win in the US presidential election: seeing truthfulness being increasingly valued, even as it is perceived to be an increasingly rare commodity.

Trump’s success comes from his use of a simple pool of words, easily understood phrases, and the appeal to his supporters for succour in the face of his opponents being ‘mean’ and ‘rude’ to him: words seldom heard in delicate cut and thrust of politics, which – up till now – has relied on all the participants using diplomatic language and jargon to keep up at least the veneer of respectability. Trump’s refusal to play the word games, his use of emotive pleas and above all, his simple and repetitive slogans appeal more than the carefully thought-out politicised sound-bites that the public is used to.

Some points to take away:

  • 83% of people prefer simple language
  • Qualifying statements and soundbites make speakers sound untrustworthy
  • Clear, open and emotional communication is more highly valued than aggressive boardroom jargon

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