Thursday, November 20, 2014

Beyond narcissism

In the last post, I showed you three examples of narcissistic writing and explained how narcissism can make a writer or public speaker look foolish.

In this post, I show you an article that goes beyond narcissism and into solipsism. It may or may not be a parody; nowadays, it’s hard to tell.

The first thing the typical reader notices is that the author, while writing about providing consulting services to businesses, sounds like a giddy child. She sounds bedazzled by the world of business, and she seems to have only a superficial awareness of how businesspeople think, speak and act.

The second thing the reader notices is that the author doesn’t realize that her typical reader would be familiar with common business expressions such “word of mouth” and “referrals,” and would know that these are long-established expressions* as opposed to hip new fads that they need to be introduced to. The author did not need to say:

… what people call “word of mouth” and “referrals.”

Nor did she need to say:

…what we call inbound marketing.**

By this point, the typical reader suspects that, metaphorically, the author just fell off the turnip truck. She seems to be new to business. There’s nothing wrong with that; we were all novices once. What is cringeworthy is the author’s lack of empathy; she seems to assume that her readers are as callow as she is.

In the next three paragraphs, she keeps the reader cringing:

In this process of speaking with startups and established companies over the past year and 8 months I have come to realize that there should be a profession that is specific to startup consulting. Why not call it what it really is. 
Startup consulting helps startups understand what they need to do to grow: Startups have problems. Startups have ideas. Startups need to define their market positioning. Startups need help.
Myself and all the other Inbound Marketing Specialists at HubSpot should really call themselves Startup Consultants. Every company was once a startup. Aspects of even established companies have startupy parts of them. (Boldface and italics in original.)

The author seems to think she has created startup consulting. To avoid embarrassing herself, all she need have done is take five seconds to Google the phrase “startup consulting.” (I just tried it and got 24,600,000 hits.)

In fact, I know several people who, for 30 years or more, have been consultants to startups. (By the way, I would be shocked if any of those consultants used the word “startupy,” or any other such puerile word – except ironically.)

In general, the author’s logic is unsound; e.g., she speaks of “aspects” that “have parts” and says “Talk with the company about their vision for what they want to solve for.” Her grammar, diction, punctuation and capitalization are careless. However, this post is already long, so I don’t have the space to provide more detail here.

The Takeaway: The author sounds like she has acquired astronomically too much self-esteem. She seems to be completely unaware how childish her writing sounds. If you are a novice and want to avoid a similar fate, do this: Before you write for publication, or speak in public, or become a consultant, first fill in any large gaps in your logic, grammar, diction, punctuation and capitalization. It won’t take more than 300 hours; i.e., it will take a lot less time than the average American adult spends watching television in 12 weeks.*** But it does demand attention, humility and empathy. Do this and you will look and sound a lot more experienced.
*For example, “word of mouth” has been in use since 1553.

**If the author had simply glanced at her employer’s home page, she would have seen the phrase “Inbound Marketing & Sales Software” and could have gathered that her employer assumes that visitors to its website already know what inbound marketing is.

***The average is more than 33 hours per week (source). My math: 33 hours per week times 12 weeks = 396 hours.

See disclaimer.

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