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Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter's Guide
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Showing 1-6 of 6 reviews (3 star)show all reviews
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Consultants Fugere, Hardaway, and Warshawsky expose four common "traps" that otherwise intelligent professionals fall into when they communicate:

1. The obscurity trap. "Business idiots" (a phrase they employ often) who want to sound smart use jargon, acronyms, wordiness, and evasiveness. To avoid this trap, employ plain English and candor, and make your messages short and sweet. Don't try to sound brilliant; just get to the point.

2. The anonymity trap. Idiots depend on templates, clichés, and conventions. Instead, dare to express your personality - use your authentic voice - and make phone calls instead of hiding behind e-mail.

3. The hard-sell trap. Idiots over-promise, relentlessly accentuate the positive, and deny the existence of glaring flaws and screw-ups. To escape this trap, own up to bad news and flops. Use colorful, entertaining details to support your claims.

4. The tedium trap. Idiots dump pre-packaged data on their audiences and drone on in pointless generalizations. Instead, be spontaneous. Make the details specific and relevant to listeners. Tell a story.

The authors present numerous examples (real and hypothetical) of pompous, arrogant, tedious, boring, and obfuscatory business communications.

The authors also present a few examples -- not nearly enough, though -- of very effective communication, including an excerpt from Winston Churchill's speech to the House of Commons on June 4, 1940:

"We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Those 81 words, which arguably changed the course of history, comprise 105 syllables - an average of 1.3 syllables per word.

The authors spend a little too much ink bashing business people and not enough explaining how to overcome the traps and fix poor communication habits. Their style is often mean-spirited. Their publicist calls the book "wickedly funny," but I think their relentless, cliché-ridden humor gets tedious.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
If you are looking to get some ideas on commnication this is a good book. I enjoyed the no-nonsense apprach and the notion that communcation should be done with honesty and not fluff. There were a few analogies that were used that I suspect as a woman they would have offended. Overall, it was good information and worth the money
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The author splits the book into 4 sections, then goes into more detail and reasoning within each section. The four sections are as follows:

1. Obscurity Trap
2. Anonymity Trap
3. Hard-Sell Trap
4. Tedium Trap

The idea is that many business people fall into these traps, leading to the audience's eyes to glaze over or to not to listen. Basically, people use words to hide or obscure what they are actually saying, which leads to miscommunication and hard feelings (Obscurity). In addition, people don't let their personality shine through (Anonymity), push their product or solution too hard (hard-sell), or are boring (tedium).

Each section pulls examples from various business reports and interviews, pop culture, politics, and history. While these points may be exemplified by the examples, there is a lack of clear recommendations on how to improve your own writing, speeches, etc. I don't think that the generalizations given are specific enough to cause improvement in your own reports, etc. It also seems like a lot of the writing in each section is "fluff" and not wholly necessary for the book. On the plus side, it is a quick read at only 166 pages. I managed to read it within 2 days on and off.

I think there are other superior books to making your writing and presentations more clear. If you are interested in improving your:
1. Presentations: Business: Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story, General: Presentation Zen
2. Reports: How to make an IMPACT
3. Figures/Graphs: The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics

The bottom line: A reasonable read, would recommend reading it once, but not buying as a reference.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2006
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The first sentence of chapter 1 is probably my favorite quote from this book, and sums up the premise quite nicely: "Unless a businessperson gets cornered into speaking directly to live people - say, English teachers bearing assault rifles - we know what to expect: an indigestible main course of catchphrases and endless prose, with not a lot of substance for dessert."

English teachers with assault rifles. That's a movie scenario I could get behind!

Communication is a common buzzword in any business environment, but it means different things to different people. When a group of employees complains that communication from above is lacking, what they usually mean is that information isn't available in an easily accessible form. A typical report or batch of powerpoint slides full of meaningless, intentionally obscure, PC jargon doesn't solve that problem and can in fact be insulting to the more intelligent portion of the audience. Here the authors break corporate communication weaknesses down into four "traps": obscurity, anonymity, hard-sell and tedium. They suggest four ways to overcome these traps: storytelling, conversation, personality, and recreation. Some of the examples are eye-opening, such as a side by side comparison of an Enron memo and a Google memo, or a presentation given one week before the Columbia disaster which in hindsight might have saved the lives of the crew if anyone listening had been able to pull critically relevant safety information out of a messy, boring, repetitive slide.

It's no coincidence that the authors have a software program which will skim through your verbiage and pull out cliches or jargon for you, but they don't waste a lot of space in the book trying to sell it to you, for which I am grateful. My college genetics professor taught from his own textbook and I hated that feeling of a biased approach.

If you already have solid writing/speaking skills, the book is still a reasonable way to pass a rainy afternoon and might spark some ideas for your next presentation. Although I do believe that strong communicators are born, not made. You either have the innate talent for creativity and clarity, or you don't, and mediocre speakers or people who are lousy at getting their point across probably aren't going to get much out of this book or any other. Where I think this would have the most benefit is for young folks new to the business world who are not yet fallen into the trap of corporatespeak, or for good communicators too long exposed to the "dark side" who are struggling with finding ways to get out of the "four traps" and stand out from the crowd of faceless, dark-suited, templated drones. If the only way to get people to come to your meetings is by offering food, maybe this book is a worthy investment, but you're going to have to have at least the basic creativity skills needed to apply what you learn.
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on January 1, 2015
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I like the way Brian Fugere explains things. Provocative, disturbing but so true....
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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Jargon is not just about using big words to make small points. Oft times it's about using big words to make no point at all. When you have nothing to say, jargon is the best way to say it. When there is bad news to deliver, jargon is a business "idiot's" biggest ally.

The first deadly sin is pride, and jargon is an all too ready accomplice. You should give the truth a chance to come out and be seen. Jargon is the foundation of obscurity. It's only part of the long slide into "idiocy." Word choice is a good place to start to connect with your audience.

Jargon is everywhere, and it shows disrespect for your audience. Jargon is used mainly as a shortcut, as it's easy to lapse into vagary and verbosity so you won't have to work the way through to clarity and crispness.

Jargon, wordiness and evasiveness are the active ingredients of modern business speak. When obscurity pollutes someone's communications, it's because the author's goal is to impress and not inform. The 'low road' to impressing an audience is to make them feel inferior, by using words they won't understand.

Some I heard at the latest City Council are: 'submit it to your discretion,' ' trapazoid,' 'decisive,' 'streetscape,' 'act of acknowledgment,' 'apparition,' ' impressive,' 'clarity.'

It took three writers to put this little manual together, Chelsea Hardaway, Brian Fugere, and Jon Warshawsky who all love grammar as I do and hate the way people speak these days to say nothing. I especially dislike the overuse of the word 'that.'
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