Once again I take finger to keyboard to write you a rant thinly disguised as an educational opportunity. This seems to be becoming a habit for me. Please refer to my rant from a few days ago “In! Defense! of Exclamation! Points!”
Yesterday I was slaving away on behalf of Lifehack.org and writing a piece on how to give a great presentation, specifically on how to beat onstage anxiety. (I will provide a link when it goes live.)
As I was researching my topic, I was going through some of the Ted Talks on Youtube in search of a positive example of someone well prepared for his presentation. I came upon a guy who was discussing communication and gave a list of “Communication Don’ts”.
This man’s presentation was actually prepared well and I was going to use him as an example until I actually heard what he was saying.
Some of the “Communication Don’ts” he gave I disagreed with mightily.
First among them was the idea that one must tone down one’s communication and avoid “embellishment”. In essence he advocated cutting out of our language words that, in his opinion are overly descriptive.
He indicated that it is a short step from embellishment to outright lying.
While this may be true in some rare instances, because someone describes something in enthusiastic terms, is he embellishing? Is this not his honest perception? Who is anyone to call that a lie?
This is not the first time I have run into this alarming trend designed to tone down enthusiasm and enthusiastic language, in order to make it more “socially acceptable” to the “average person”.
This agenda fails to consider one vital fact.
Those who communicate well and bring new ideas, passions, art forms and futures are not average. They never will be. They are “too much”. They are “too intense”. They are “over the top”. They don’t sit down and shut up and they won’t go away. They get in people’s faces and despite being told how wrong they are, they continue to push their ideas because they know they have value even though they are not yet part of the mainstream.
Ultimately, the new idea becomes adopted as a norm but not without a huge amount of pushback by “average people” who, upon closer inspection turn out to be a small handful of people who are pretending that this is the opinion of “everyone” and are pushing an oppressive agenda.
New ideas do not originate from those who are trying to cut communication by agreeing with arbitrary “rules” designed to oppressively control our communication output. They originate outside the mainstream and are accepted because the person promoting them refuses to let go.
It looks a bit like this:
Passionate individual: Red jelly beans!
Passionate individual: Red jelly beans!
Passionate individual: Red jelly beans!
Them: Red jelly beans and it was my idea!
Who are we to tell passionate individuals to tone down their communication? Why are we not trying to reach their level of discourse?
This speaker specifically pointed to the word “Awesome” as an example of a word uneducated people use that is way too “over the top” for every day use.
He went on to point out that the word “Awesome” is so overused that it has lost its true meaning.
This speaker then stated that since “Awesome” was so “overused” he wondered out loud what he might do if, in some rare instance he found himself confronted with something that was really awesome. What to do? What to say?
Um, I don’t know… How about…”Awesome?”
How sad that this person does not come across at least one thing that is wonderful, impressive,and sometimes frightening every day.
Additionally, words in English have multiple meanings. Using a word in one meaning does not invalidate its other meanings.
“Awesome” became a slang word when the gorgeous Keanu Reeves used it in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It then took on an additional definition meaning “Excellent” or “Really, Really Cool”. And it is now in the dictionary with that meaning.
Slang words develop over time and come into accepted every day use. Why? because people agree that this meaning for a word should exist or they simply like it that way.
In that film, Keanu’s character was one of those fortunate beings who never lose their childlike wonder. To children, seeing the world new, many things that we older more jaded folks see as mundane are, in fact Awesome.
To him, many things were awesome because he perceived them that way. Are we to say then that the thing he found very impressive is not awesome?Or that he should not find things in life to be very impressive?
How can it be that perceiving too many things to be awesome somehow magically degrades the term itself?
If you were in a bakery and described most of your products as “sweet” would that somehow degrade the word “sweet”? If you tell someone “I love you” multiple times a day does that degrade the phrase “I love you”?
Is there some scarcity on awesome things or awesomeness?
If I am awesome can you not also be awesome?
How great would it be if our perception of the world or others being awesome never changed in response to the weird ideas and suppression that we confront daily?
People who are this way I admire greatly. We should retain our enthusiasm and not fall into a grumpy critical mindset.
Let’s not add in a bunch of arbitrary rules that make no sense. Language can be confusing enough without legitimizing vague “rules”that someone invents in order to make someone else wrong.
That said, there are substitutes for “Awesome”. Let’s try some on for size:
You could use “Eximious” as a way of describing someone distinguished. You know, like an awesome person.
This is likely to get you resentful looks from those who recognize that you are trying to speak over their heads.
How about “Gradely”? Which has morphed over time to mean awesome. This might get you somewhere in the North of England so if you are planning a visit there in the near future and nowhere else, brush up on “Gradely” and use it often.
Or my new favorite “Supernacular” meaning a drink that you would drink to the last drop.
That guy is a Supernacular musician! Ok, it works.It is even better if you adopt a Bill/Ted mannerism while saying it.
(For more awesome alternative words to “Awesome” check out this Awesome site.)
While some of the points this man brought up were valid (i.e. gossip being stupid) there were others that I took issue with.
Judging, according to this person is wrong and hard to listen to. Ok, but there is judging and there is judging. You cannot go through life never judging anyone.
I remember that when I was about 15, I was walking home and two very dirty and scruffy, toothless older men pulled up and asked me if I wanted a ride home from school. Having been thoroughly brain washed, a small part of me said “Chris! Don’t judge!” and if I had allowed that to override my gut instincts which made me question why two grown men in a crappy car smelling like dope would want to altruistically give me a ride home from school, I would have gotten in the car with them.
Thanks to my being judgmental I am not writing this to you with decomposed fingers from under the floorboards of some filthy shack right now.
Ooooooo! Look how judgmental I was just then! But I am still alive to judge.
It is downright dangerous to teach your kids or anyone to never judge people. There are people on this planet who do mean you harm, especially if you are a child or a woman.
That said, it is hugely annoying to sit there and try to talk to someone who rolls his eyes or otherwise gives you the impression that you are wasting his time but this is not judging. This is straight up being an asshole. There is a difference.
Another point this man brought up was negativity. This I agree with to the extent that constant negativity for no reason is annoying but there are some people who have a very hard time in life.
My mom has a bad back. She is in constant pain. When I call her in the afternoon she has had just about enough of it and can be a tad negative. What of it? Do we cut people out of our lives because they are dealing with something awful? Do we tell them to knock it off because they are killing our good time? How would you like it if you were never allowed to communicate just how shitty you feel?
When I talk to my mom, I let her say what she wants to about her condition because I know it is true. She is not a baby or a whiner. Once she communicates that to me, we talk about other things. How can I not give her audience when she wants to let her feelings out? She does that for me all the time. I think I should return the favor.
I did not really understand her plight until I recently flared up my hip replacement surgery and was in constant pain. There is nothing like living in someone’s shoes to give you a perspective on why they might be negative or complaining. I am actually impressed with how she is handling her pain because after a few days of it I was just about ready to take a swan dive under the First Street Trolley wheels. (Don’t worry, I am just being dramatic and embellishing/lying. I am way too lazy to go all the way to First Street simply to throw myself under the trolley wheels even though it is a thoroughly awesome trolley.)
This man also brought up his mom and how miserable it is to be around her. Has he ever asked her what was the matter? Why not? Just because you are not feeling rotten at that same moment doesn’t mean the other person has no right to complain.
The final deadly sin was insisting on having things done your way.
What if your way is the best way? What if you are paying good money for a products or services and you can’t get what you paid for?
Is this guy not doing exactly that by telling us how wrong we are for communicating anything other than exactly the way he wants us to?
Do you see a pattern here? You are not allowed to use words that communicate enthusiasm, You are not allowed to say anything negative, You are not allowed to complain, you are not allowed to judge and you are not allowed to hold your viewpoint.
You are allowed to sit down and shut up and let anyone do whatever the hell they please without you taking a hand in anything. You are expected to be a wishy washy jelly fish floating every which way at the whim of the current.
This is fine if you want to be the complete effect of everything good or bad in life.
You have the right, nay the duty to complain when things are not going right. Group agreement is what got Hitler in power. The ones who complained were shot but that does not mean they weren’t 100% correct to judge, be negative or complain.
You have the right, nay the duty to communicate in enthusiasm, passion or any emotional level you please. You really do. That is the First Amendment to our Constitution which consists of the basic agreements that we built our country on and around.
There are rules of communication. They are simple and easy to learn. Learn them and then communicate however you please. If someone doesn’t like it fine, they are not the ones you want to be with.
Communication is the essence of life. Keep it free.