Why Business People Speak Like Idiots

Why Business People Speak Like Idiots : A Bullfighter's GuideI just finished reading the book Why Business People Speak Like Idiots : A Bullfighter’s Guide by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, and Jon Warshawsky.

The book is an entertaining look at the communication styles of what they call “business idiots” and how to recognize them and, most importantly, why you should not use them. Just to give you an idea of the entertaining way in which the book was written, it was actually dedicated to Mr. T. The dedication reads "He said it best: Don’t gimme none of that jibba-jabba!".

While being extremely entertaining to read (unlike most business books), the book is extremely informative. The authors split the book into four parts to address the four “traps” that happen in business communication:

  1. The Obscurity Trap – This trap is explained as those who use a lot of empty words in order to communicate vaguely and avoid accountability. This trap is characterized by a lot of empty phrases like "best of breed", "synergy", "center of excellence", "innovation", "best practices" — all of those phrases that you hear in "kick off meetings" that fail to get to the point of why you are listening to the person you are talking to or cannot be defined as something concrete. The obscurity trap forces the listener to work really, really, hard to figure out exactly what is being talked about. It is also a mechanism that "business idiots" use to avoid accountability, as what they are communicating and whether they are responsible is hidden in the long diatribe you are currently listening to. Surprisingly at the end of the book where they have a glossary of these phrases, the phrase "go live" – a popular term in the SAP world – is defined as well. The meaning of " go live" as described in this glossary is "Captures the intense drama of using a new computer system on Monday. Also says a lot about whoever thinks this is an exciting event". This section is all about the disease in business today of indirect and obscure communication.
  2. The Anonymity Trap – This trap is all about being templatized. In the business world it is quite common to be "coached" around appearance and communication, so that you look and communicate like everyone else — you know, so you are "playing the game". The communication coaching usually centers around communicating in the way outlined in the obscurity trap which automatically ensures you are not committing to anything. It is frowned upon to speak your mind, as you have to blend in with the rest of the company — you know, be a "team player". This trap focuses around the sad use of Powerpoint and templates these days and the use of these communication tools and how they have effected both the vaguety (is that a word?) of communication and make you, well, forgettable.
  3. The Hard-Sell Trap – I’ve said for years that the best way to sell someone something is to let them decide without pressuring them. I’ve even written about my ideas of a good salesmen and the way I dispise the “hard sell” and will normally walk out of places without buying anything when people attempt to sell me something this way. This chapter confirms (to me anyway) that my ideas were valid. Enough said. Good chapter to read and digest.
  4. The Tedium Trap – This trap is all about conforming to the culture so much that you lose yourself in the process. Once you’ve hit the tedium trap, you might as well hang it up, because anything uniquely you is gone in your communication. This chapter explains the Tedium Trap and gives some good ideas as to how to get out of it and start bringing yourself back into your communication.

In the last chapter of the book, there is a paragraph that sticks out as why you should read it. I’ll quote it here:

“If you’ve made it this far, you probably don’t want to check your soul at the door. If you take anything away from this book, it should be that you don’t have to check anything at the door but the four traps. There is an amazing opportunity for you to rise above your peers, further your career, sell your ideas, and get what you want just by being yourself.”

That sums it up. I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot about why I have, in the past, gotten frustrated in business, especially when I have been told that my communication is "too direct".

I highly recommend reading this one if you are just starting out in the business world (although it’s not too late for those who are already up to their ears in it) so that you can see how important it is not to get caught up in trying to be "like everyone else" and that the unique thing you bring to business is — well — YOU.