It’s time to face facts, people. Professionals have an addiction problem. The street-name for the substance ripping through UK offices and boardrooms is “corporate guff” or “meaningless rubbish”. Its more common name is “the cliché”. Cliché-addiction has reached terrifying levels. Withdrawal symptoms include brain fog, vacant staring into phone screens, and gibbering as the victim tries to rediscover normal language buried deep within rusting brain circuits.
“It’s our people who make the difference”
“We focus on delivering a pragmatic, solutions-focused service”
“We’re proactive and responsive”
“We’re straight talking and we tell you how it is”
Professionals in pitches and meetings up and down the UK are blurting such addictive stock phrases out on a daily basis. When I hear these banalities, I switch off, and I dare say many potential prospects do, too. The speaker clearly hasn’t given a second thought to what they’re saying.
Of all these banalities, one cliché dominates like no other, its use spreading uncontrollably like a contagious disease. Its name? “Passion”.
“We’re passionate about tax”
“Our people have a real passion for compliance services”
“I’m truly passionate about client service”
I’m sure you’ve heard the merciless flogging of this word (Peep Show’s David Mitchell has – check out his hilarious video here.)
Please stop it! Right now!
For one thing, it’s a misnomer. If you tell a client you are “passionate” about something, you are literally saying (taken from Dictionary.com): “I possess a strong and barely controllable emotion about this thing. It even causes me to feel an intense sexual love.”
That’s surely not the message you want to communicate, is it?
What’s worse, saying “I’m passionate” is clearly a poorly designed camouflage, used tocover upa lack of excitement and creativity. If you are genuinely inspired by the idea of reducing your clients’ tax bills, helping them to achieve their goals, or whatever it might be, you do not need to say so. It will be quite clear from the way you behave and communicate.
Gordon Ramsay can teach us a thing or two about this. Love him or hate him, his passion is clear to see without him having to robotically claim: “I’m passionate about helping restaurateurs”.
Then there’s Prof. Brian Cox. He radiates an intense love for what he’s talking about. His face, his tone, his speech patterns… they all show that his chosen subject brings him genuine joy.
We need to be more like Brian and Gordon. Showyour audience what energises you, without ever needing to declare “I’m passionate”. Tired, meaningless clichés are redundant if you prepare well for meetings and pitches by creating original, tailored content and by planning your presentation and delivery well in advance.
Let’s work hard to take all this meaningless rubbish off the streets. Together, we will make our offices and meeting rooms cliché and jargon free.