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#608: Be True to Yourself With Your References and Analogies

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Given that we work with four generations in most of our client organizations, how should a consultant handle communications, particularly popular references and terminology? I can make a case for keeping your references tied to your generation but also for speaking the language of the younger generation.

You lose very little being authentic. Trying (too hard) to be trendy b using terminology you don't understand or words that just don't fit your style are likely to do more damage to your reputation than endear you to someone you are trying to impress.

That said, there is value in keeping your analogies, metaphors and popular references up to date. Yet, even here, be genuine and don't overreach. When you are referring you your extensive set of contacts, you should consider whether the term Rolodex that you may have used for a long time would better be called your address book. If you don't know what Angry Birds refers to, or the nuance of the phrase "just put a ring on it" then it is best to just not refer to them.

Also, be on the lookout for terminology you may use out of habit but may no longer make sense. For example, I hear people say "ABC is the gold standard." Given that there has not been a gold standard for 80 years, maybe a better reference is in order.

Tip: It's OK to have your own terms and figures of speech. They help identify who you are and reflect something about your history, how you see the world and that you are not trying to be something you are not. And, unless a contemporary term is materially more precise or richer than a traditional term, why would you give up the power of your "old" word or phrase for a "new" one?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting terminology  learning  reputation 

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