by Joe Carrel, Buffalo Exchange HQ
Let’s get one thing straight: you’re already a smart person (you shop at Buffalo, so of course). But we can all agree that there is a difference between being smart and sounding smart. The path from frontal lobe to tip of the tongue is short but slippery. Even our most insightful ideas can land with a thud. It’s all about packaging – the words we choose to convey our point. And, if you’re like me, we can become a bit lazy when it comes to those words we choose, often grabbing the closest term in our mental cupboard.
Recently, while playing Scrabble with friends, I added a twist to the rules: we could only play words that everyone agreed we personally might use in everyday conversation. My thinking was that it would eliminate those tedious dictionary dives to answer the age old Scrabble question, “Is that REALLY a word?” The rule change was effective in speeding up the game, but also had the unintended side effect of highlighting how limited our conversational vocabularies were.
Fortunately, if we crack open the communication toolbox we’ll find an easy-to-use jumper cable that can spark us back into sounding like the smart people we are.
Say the Magic Word
So what’s the magic word? The one that will raise our perceived IQ to that of a pipe-smoking, elbow patch-sporting, British accent-wielding professor? There is none. However, to get back into smart-sounding shape, we can start by eliminating a single word from our conversational diet.
That word is “very.”
“Very” is shorthand to escalate a common word to something more intense and, for most of us, it has become a crutch. We already have supercharged versions of these common words just yearning to be utilized. The good news for us is that we can easily ditch “very” without seeming pretentious.
More Compelling Communication
I am certainly not the first person to suggest that we dust off terms like those above and get them back into circulation, but I thought it an idea well worth passing along. Questioning our use of “very” can lead us to question other overused and easily replaceable words. How often do I settle for “like” or “love” to reflect my enjoyment? “Great”, “amazing” or “awesome” to express my enthusiasm? Or Very’s kid brother, “really,” to amplify my intensity?
We may never be mistaken for a British-accent-wielding professor, but we can, slowly but surely, weed out those tired terms that stand in the way of compelling communication, and better express ourselves, both online and in person.
Sounds pretty smart to me.