Are You Guilty? The Unconscious Goof that Can Hurt Your Credibility
by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE
You may not have noticed it yet, but once you do, you'll have fun spotting examples everywhere. Some of your friends and associates are guilty. The blight has invaded television, newspapers, and magazines. It crosses all professions and levels of education. Recently, I counted dozens of examples at a 4-day meeting with some of the most brilliant and successful professional speakers and consultants in the U.S. Even you may be doing it!
What is this Crime Against Credibility?
It's a single, suddenly-popular buzzword that makes me feel like fingernails screeching on a blackboard every time I hear it. It's
Even communication experts are guilty. I maintain that professional speakers, coaches, and consultants are paid for their lifetime knowledge, innovative ideas, leading-edge strategies, and, most important of all, their eloquence in putting their ideas across to their audiences. Yet, I overhear these communicators saying to each other, "The group loved my stuff" or "I gave them my best stuff."
Even worse is "and stuff." Some individuals don't seem to know that a period at the end of a sentence is a great way to stop. I've heard, "This will decrease absenteeism and stuff" and
"We had a great conversation and stuff."
In Shakespeare's time, "stuff" meant woven cloth: "such stuff as dreams are made on." It has come to mean "miscellaneous" and even acquired the negative connotation of junk, debris, or rubbish. Surely, you don't want to clutter your speaking with rubbish?
The worst thing about "stuff" is that it is not specific! As my associate David Palmer has programmed me to think, "Specificity builds credibility."
Each time one of my speaking clients says "stuff," I ask what exactly they mean to say. Some are amazed at how often they use the word, even people with PhD's. Yet, their education isn't obvious in their language because of that one useless and irritating word.
If you're asking yourself what difference it could make, I'll tell you. It makes a huge difference. You get hired because what you say sounds like it is worth paying for. Language that is fuzzy, clumsy, and unclear destroys your credibility and your claim to professionalism. You might as well be delivering your message in Valley-Girl speak, grinding your toe in the rug and murmuring, "Whatever."
Your audience of one or a thousand deserves clear, forceful, and specific language. Toss out all that meaningless "stuff" and show them what a professional you are.
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