I had a meeting today with a guy who wanted to discuss a possible business collaboration. Basically, he had a pitch for me, and we spoke for about 20 minutes. I offered about five sentences, and he filled the rest of the time with puffery--for his idea, the people involved, and me. What's puffery? It's flattery and exaggerated praise, especially when used for promotional purposes. It's my new favorite word. Pizza Hut is using it in their commercials to point out that the "better-tasting pizza" claims of the Papa John's organization are no more than puffery. Apparently, Papa was forced to admit as much in a federal court. Yikes.
But we all do this--puff things up and fill our language with hype and exaggeration. Hey, I'm guilty of it. I'll be the first to admit it. But maybe we should take a look at our use of language in sales, staff and client meetings. You know what kind of language I'm talking about. Statements like, "This would be a groundbreaking project that will offer the most innovative, one-stop shopping in a state-of-the-art facility, making us the best of breed, the only one of its kind." We also often make hasty, broad, potentially insincere generalizations like, "All peopleare like that," "I never do that" and "It's always that way." Not to mention, "All generalities are false, including this one." Get it?
Most of the actions or activities people engage in, both personally and professionally, are carried out through conversation, so our use of language is a powerful tool for building or breaking trust. If you can't back up your puffery or prove the generalizations you make, it'll be difficult to engender much trust. And, as I'm sure you know, trust contributes to strong interpersonal relationships with your customers, staff, vendors and friends. So if you're using words that others find filled with hyperbole, exaggeration and puffery, might it be harder for you to earn their trust? I would think so.
If you were going to say only what you mean and mean only what you say, what words would you need to remove from your vocabulary? Can you be impeccable with your words? Can you put away the puffery and jettison the generalizations?
Remember the power of the word next time you're in a conversation, critical or otherwise. This simple concept can help you earn trust, build your reputation and make friends. And note that simple does not necessarily mean small or insignificant. Sometimes the simplest idea or adjustment brings about the greatest change.