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Using Big , Fancy Words Doesn’t Always Make You Sound Smarter

Sometimes they make you sound like a jerk

Kristina H
Feb 26, 2019 · 7 min read

The oil and gas sector in Alberta has been in a destructive struggle, for the entire Province and Country. It has caused conflicts and cut backs, lay offs, and thousands of job losses over the past few years. It is beyond stressful, if your lifestyle and future depends on an oil and gas job.

Yesterday, I was privy to a very strongly worded email that was sent to my partner, Dave.

The Cole’s Notes version of the letter, was that he is being put back out into “the field” to do sales calls-cold calling. This is something that he hasn’t been doing for around 5 years. He has been in an office and building relationships with companies in our big city. And he has been doing this very effectively. In fact, he has stretched out of our country and found work in the US and other areas, when Alberta was suffering. He has made the company A LOT of revenue and found jobs where no one else in the company could.

He is a devoted, strong piece, of the backbone of the company he works for. He has been with them since they first opened.

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Big Fancy Words

I noted in the email, that there were a few “big words” , used as a way to portray the manager as someone who is in a powerful position. I personally know the sender of the email, and am very aware that this is not how he typically speaks.

He used words like “Proponent” and “Ambiguous” multiple times, and it sent an unnecessarily harsh message. First of all, his words were used completely out of context, and secondly, they made the email read as if he was trying to be impressive.

This was far from an impressive form of communication.

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The Follow Up Call

Once Dave received the email, he was taken aback, and vibrating with anger. The main reason he felt the way he did was because of the wording, and because of the method, in which the message was delivered. It could have been a face to face discussion between the two men, or a meeting with the team to determine the next courses of action.

It wasn’t.

It was a very rude, abrupt letter, with poor grammar, and a lot of big words.

Dave came home and called his manager, immediately, asking is he could discuss the email. The tone of the manager’s voice on the phone sounded annoyed that Dave had questions and concerns. yet, instead of allowing Dave time to process and work with the manager, he sternly said, “ Now, don’t go getting all defensive with me!” (The manager was being defensive-Dave wasn’t). He actually sighed very loudly over the phone, to dramatically express his annoyance.

Throughout the phone call, his boss said the words, “Demoralizing” and “Structural”. He said, “ Fundamental” and “simplistic”. He also informed Dave that he was required to take further training and be more “tech savvy”. None of the wording he used made any sense. As I listened to him speak, it was all I could do to keep my tongue bitten. I honestly wanted to yell at him over the phone.

Basically the phone call entailed a very defensive, offensive manager, telling Dave that he had to change his tone and be more positive. Even the word “termination” and “benefactor” came up in various parts of the conversation. Neither of those words pertained to the discussion.

I know that his manager was trying to sound superior to Dave, and was making an effort to sound educated, yet his words were nothing but negativity and defensive jargon. He caused the situation to become painful to listen to. Had he used simple words, rather than throwing around words like “demoralizing”, he would have been much more success in his communication.

On one hand, he is telling Dave that he needs to change his attitude to be more positive. On the other hand he is using these words that are replete with negative defense. At one point he even accused Dave of having a “tone” with him, when Dave hadn’t got a word in edgewise between all the fancy words.

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Better Communication

If you have something to say, say it clearly. Say it in words that mean what you want to say. Once you try and get fancy, you have lost your listener/reader, or you have confused them.

> Know who your reader/listener is before you press send. Especially if you are sending communication out to them that is life changing/altering, gain a sense of what their reaction may be.

> Don’t assume that the reader/listener has a “tone” or attitude on the phone or through email/text communication. They have just be given information that needs thought process. Of course their demeanor will be different. You may create a tone in them, based on how you speak to them.

>If you think the other person could react defensively, the worst thing you can say to them, is “Don’t get defensive!” (as you become defensive)

> Whenever possible, keep hard conversations “human” between your reader/listener. Emails and texts are not quality human interaction, especially if they threaten the livelihood and lifestyle of the receiver. Face to face allows humility, which allows emotions.

> Promote Positivity- It’s contagious

> Don’t try to make yourself seem professional by throwing fancy words and euphemisms into an email. The fact that you are choosing to email someone with bad news, in unprofessional, in and of itself.

>If you send out an email that will affect someone financially, emotionally, or socially, be prepared for a phone call or rebuttal email. You said your piece, allow them to say theirs-even if you don’t care what they have to say. It’s how people are supposed to communicate.

>Don’t be a keyboard warrior- Anyone can hide at their desk and send out rude, inappropriate messages. If you want respect from your employees, colleagues or team, make the effort to speak with them in person or on the phone. Follow up the personal conversation with an email if you want the paper trail.

> Management should be trained in Human Resources- even if it is just “basic” information. Communication is the KEY to having a successful company. Learning how to communicate effectively could save the relationships in your team. By taking Human Resources training you can learn so many valuable lessons in how to treat your fellow employees or colleagues, respectfully.

> Deliberate support and kindness matters, even when it’s during a disciplinary conversation or communication. Beginning harshly worded conversations or emails with words like, “Thank you” or “I hope you are doing well”, takes no time. Most likely, it takes less time than concocting ridiculously fancy words. Taking time to show appreciation and value toward colleagues and employees earns mutual respect. Devaluing them, or discrediting them, is not beneficial, especially if you plan a future relationship together.

> Allow questions and responses. What is the point of telling an employee what their “new job” or what the new plan is, if you are closed to questions and clarification.

> Be real and genuine when you talk with your fellow workers. Trying to impress with a new language, when your employees know you on a personal level, comes across as impersonal and egotistical. They know you through a certain style and demeanor. Throwing them off track and showing off your vast vocabulary portrays you as a fake.

> Be polite. As a manager, one of the skills you require is the ability to be polite. Use manners like “please” and ‘thank you”. The days of “Bosses” and Subordinates are over. This is why management are called “Leaders” and “Supervisors” now, rather than BOSS. Work environments are more humility based than they used to be, and less humiliating.

> If you use big words, at least be able to back them up with clarification. If you are asked what was meant when you used the word “ambiguous”, be able to give examples. Know what the word means, before you throw it around to appear intelligent.

Being clear, kind, concise and proactive will show your employees the respect and acknowledgement they deserve. Building a capacity of understanding, support and professional courtesy is how success is built, no matter the industry.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +429,678 people.

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