How to Stop Speaking in Bullshit

Buzzword guide_popup

By: Account Lead, Dina Sorser

Are we targeting thought-leaders or trend-setters? How about think-fluencers? How do we create more synergy between our brands? Can we leverage mobile moments to plant a seed and enhance the consumer journey? Let’s create an innovative strategic campaign. Can you pull together a deck on that?

All terms that our SXSW panelists so eloquently labeled as “bullshit”. And according to them, the best way to describe bullshit is: you know it when you see it. Forbes actually conducted a study to figure out everyone’s favorite bullshit word. The winner… Ideate.

Our industry, and every industry for that matter, is littered with buzzwords like these. Many of us have become so immersed in a culture of agency-speak, that using these terms is not only expected but is second-nature. When I first started working at Isobar several years ago, one of our partner agencies had a full line of photography that they labeled as “Beautiful Reality”. And if you’re scratching your head trying to figure out what that means, I am right there with you.

Although there is nothing inherently wrong with using these words internally, they can sometimes be off-putting and hinder interpersonal relationships. The main problem is they can be a little annoying and it often seems people use them to sound smarter or feel smarter in some way. They can also come across as passive-aggressive, like when someone replies to your comment with “I don’t disagree”. So you agree then? 

But the real issue is when we begin to externally communicate in this way with clients and consumers. Because they tend to have a really good bullshit radar. And when you start using jargon and terms that don’t make sense to most people, they stop believing what you’re saying. This type of language and communication can sound overly processed, phony, and manipulative. We often forgot to stop and think – are we saying something that the average person, someone outside this company, would understand? And more importantly, are we communicating something worthwhile?

Luckily our panelists had some great tips for cutting through bullshit:

  • First and foremost, be honest. Really look at your communication and ask yourself if you’re being genuine and true to the company
  • Speak with a purpose and have something to say
  • Speak like a normal human being – communicate like you would if you were having a casual conversation with your friends

  • Don’t be afraid to call others out on their bullshit
  • Use humor in the right way – the best jokes are ones that are honest, so don’t be afraid to say what’s on everyone’s minds

  • And the golden rule: treat others like you want to be treated – which means don’t make fun of others who are brave enough to communicate honestly