I just got done reading an article on Linkedin called: Stop Using These 16 Terms to Describe Yourself by Jeff Haden
In this article Jeff Haden highlights 16 overused terms that people self-assign.
While I appreciate how frustrating it can be to hear the same term used over and over, often improperly, I’m also growing tired of articles that gripe about something popular or overused.
You can spot these articles by the hyperbolic headlines.
“______ is dead” or “Is _____ dead?”
“____ things you should never do”
“Stop doing/using/saying ______”
Here’s the truth of the matter: things are unknown, then someone discovers/invents it, then it gets popular, then it gets “played out,” then it is over or becomes passé to talk about.
This is the natural cycle of things. And in a society that keeps growing, changing, and one in which so many people struggle to get by, I don’t think these “stop doing this” articles provide any value except to make us more cynical and make things harder.
Do I wish there weren’t so many “social media consultants” or “social media strategists” out there? Absolutely! But not a single article that I write–or anyone else writes–is going to change that. Social Media is a popular term right now and people will likely keep trying to make money on it, because they have a Twitter account. There are also a number of people out there who identify themselves as innovative, creative and motivated because that is what a number of companies are looking for.
What SHOULD we say?
These “stop using these words or terms” articles promote a vocabulary of basic, unembellished, uninteresting statements committed to the most narrowly defined usage of words. If one were to aggregate all of these “stop doing this” articles together and take it as fact, our introductions would go something like this:
“My name is Jeff. I do things on the Internet.”
To do this, in reality, would cause you to fall into the shadows as the rest of your competition talks about themselves in more interesting and persuasive terms. If I listened to articles like these I wouldn’t be able to use the words “social media” or “social business,” I wouldn’t be able to mention strategy (or derivations of the word, see: strategist), I wouldn’t be able to utter the words “Entrepreneur.” To be honest, I don’t even like the term “Social Media,” but you know what, I can’t escape it, because that’s what the person on the other side understands and my competition is using it.
I also couldn’t mention creative, results, problem solving, innovation, dynamic, driven, passionate, engaging, conversations, listening, content marketing, curation, or hundreds of other overused terms. And what happens when people stop using these terms, they use different ones, which get popular and then overused and eventually someone writes an articles telling people to stop using it.
Sure, the underlying message of Jeff’s article is to show rather than say. It’s to work hard and earn the usage of those words. But words help us tell a story, and limiting your vocabulary at someone else’s request or suggestion is ridiculous. Go call yourself innovative. Call yourself a Guru if you want. Most of all, be yourself. You will learn what works and what doesn’t but no amount of cynicism about overused words is going to make the marketplace any less noisy with unqualified hacks using terminology to make themselves look and feel better. The truth is that if someone actually did walk up to you and say– “I’m a passionate, innovative, dynamic provider of architectural services with a collaborative approach to creating and delivering outstanding world-class client and user experiences”– you would know they are a clown. I say let those people be clowns.
Stop writing articles telling people what to do or not do
No, the irony of that heading is not lost on me. Instead of writing articles telling people what words not to use, give them ways to earn those words and then don’t judge them if they use it anyway. Build people up, don’t tear them down. Life is hard enough without people limiting our vernacular to the 105 most basic words in our language.