Does the language you use reflect how involved you are in your work … and in your life? Promising something you can’t deliver by means of a mindless platitude is a mistake we all make, and it sets everyone up for disappointment.
I was reminded of this the other day, thanks to an aggravating experience punching through an automated “help” line — and yes, I’m using that word with no small measure of irony — trying to get someone to work through a computer issue.
The word that set me off? “Awesome.”
The recording told me to press 2 for e-mail service, and when I did, I was told, “So, you need help with your email! That’s awesome! We love helping our clients with their e-mail issues.” But when the customer service representative finally came on the line, she told me she couldn’t help me without my PIN.
When things are described as “awesome”, one should expect to gear up for some jaw-dropping events. This definitely did not qualify. When I think of the “awe” in “awesome,” this is what comes to mind:
- “Abraham was awestruck as his hand was held back by a mighty Angel.”
- “The Israelites were overcome by awe as Moses outstretched his hands and the Red Sea parted before him.”
- “The Disciples fell down in awe before the sight of their Lord God, Jesus Christ returned to Earth.”
The bar is set pretty high, in other words. When “awe” was involved in these cases some pretty major events went down. Infanticide was nipped in the bud; the laws of physics were changed; and people rose from the dead. Awesome!
Promise me “awe” and you’d better not tell me that my awesome repair issue can’t get past my lacking a PIN. I appreciate the need for security, but I am not awed in the least by the lack of interest and effort I experienced when it came to getting help for my problem.
You know what I really hate about “awesome”? It’s not that people don’t know the meaning of the word (although they don’t — look it up!). It’s that we have junked up our common vocabulary with so many knee-jerk, meaningless words and phrases — thanks to politicians, lawyers, advertising, societal pressures and so on — that we’ve all stopped listening to ourselves talk. We’ve checked out.
Think about the platitudes that may be heard at your veterinary practice:
You: “I finished mopping the floor as you asked me to.”
Autopilot response: “Awesome!”
Client: “I don’t think it’s right that you charged me for this.”
Autopilot Response: “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
You: “It’s going to be at least three days before my mobile service is reconnected?? That’s not acceptable! I need my phone for my business!”
Autopilot Response: “I’m doing the best I can.”
But … mopping the floor isn’t awesome, no one is really sorry for charging a fair price for a service provided, and I know the wireless company isn’t doing the best that they can.
People who run triathlons are doing the best that they can. People who study for the Bar exam are doing the best they can. Stephen Hawking blinks his way through writing a white paper on black holes, and your “best” is to tell me my cell phone is out of commission for three days? I realize customer service reps are coached on what to say, but a response like this makes me want to tell her that she should raise her self-expectation bar up a few notches, because at the height it’s set, an entire life’s ambitions could be accomplished merely by rolling out of bed.
When you default to junk vocabulary, clichés, and bumper-sticker slogans you’re turning off to what’s going on around you. As you check out and flip on your awesome autopilot switch, you allow this run-amok world even more leash line. The use of such language is how large corporations come to break laws with impunity, abuse time-old traditions of customer service, and create toxic, fearful, CYA work environments — just to make money for people who don’t work there. I think it’s also how presidential races become reality shows, and how we are able to give lip service to people in need without really engaging or helping.
Instead of participating in our lives in a meaningful way, using such language keeps our soul and intelligence boxed up. You punch in, pick up the phone, and say, “Good afternoon. This is Rebecca; it’s my pleasure to serve you.” When really, it’s not. And the person on the end of the line knows it.
“Awesome” is absent from most of our lives, and it doesn’t need to be that way. The difference between the paper-thin “awesome” that’s bandied about the office space and something closer to the mark is the effort to look up, look around, be reflective, and act on one’s conscience.
Here’s what I propose for you this week: Rewire your “awesome” switch through your eyes and ears, then connect it to your mouth.
Seeing and hearing what’s going on before responding might not be awesome enough to bring Christ out of the back carrying a 35 pound bag of C/D, but it might be enough to make Mrs. Romanowitz smile… and God knows a smile on that woman’s face would be a miracle indeed.
That might make you smile as well. Because connecting with the language you use is as good for you as it is for your clients. It brings meaning to your days, a true sense of service that only you can provide,thanks to your training and experience.
Engagement, in other words, is awesome. Or it can be, if you choose your words and mean what you say.
Bash Halow LVT, CVPM is a partner with Halow Tassava Consulting and lives in New York City. He regularly posts his latest articles and the whereabouts of his education events to his company’s Facebook page where he’d enjoy getting to know you!