Recently Inc.com ran an article about phrases that make recruiters laugh. A notable example: “I’m a Jedi Master at….”
It reminded me of two other words or phrases that could be considered juvenile yet have made it into our business vocabulary.
Superpower. With no ill regard to those who have asked me what mine is, I hate that question. I don’t have superpowers nor do you. I have skills I’ve developed and things I like doing and do very well but they aren’t superpowers. Superpowers are “discovered” by super heroes as something they possess. I’m pretty sure that these powers were rarely if ever developed. Spider Man got bit by a spider. That’s how he got his superpower. He didn’t spend hours a day practicing skills that would enable him to win American Ninja Warriors.
Crush. (also Crush it.) We can’t just compete and win. We have to crush: carnage! devastation! disaster! How exciting.
The goal isn’t just to win or be better than your competitor but to crush him or her. This seems fueled by too much testosterone to me, but in fairness, I know women who use the phrase, too. This is simply hyperbole. Winning well, playing hard, even dominating a competition all seem reasonable to me. Past that crushing or crushing it seems unnecessary and even braggadocios.
Language is a glimpse into who you are and how you think. I am aware these words are used in a spirit of fun. But effective communicators avoid cliche, hyperbole and exaggeration. They know that nuanced language can sometimes be more powerful than exclamatory language.
Language that is too easy and too common is vanilla in a world of word flavors. Readers and listeners take common language for granted or discount what is being said due to familiarity. We might use these words and phrases with zest but they stay at the surface and don’t penetrate the heart of the mind. Hyperbole doesn’t challenge deeper thinking and better explanation.
Think about Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon and yelling, “Crushing it for the space program!”
Gravitas is important to leaders, and “Jedi Master,” “superpowers” and the the rest of that ilk may be dramatic, but they not only lack gravitas, they diminish it.
The challenge is to think more carefully about the words you use, the words that are used by others, and whether that language best serves your purpose as a leader. Avoid the common and familiar. Don’t be different for the sake of being different. Be different for the sake of being better.