The power of RHETORIC

Why do we use rhetoric? What do they actually mean? Here is a light hearted take on today’s common rhetorics in corporate life.

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On an especially mind-numbing day at work… I found my new muse. I came across a training company’s website that offered a variety of programs that were ‘going to change your life’, ‘help you realize your dreams’, ‘give you the edge that would leapfrog your career’… on the whole.. almost everything, short of rewriting your DNA! They were going to achieve all this and more by showing you some videos of famous people and getting you to fill out a workbook! Wow! The interesting thing of course is that these terms are so overused – if only I had a penny for everytime I heard them, I’d be really rich by now!

Everywhere you look there is rhetoric, and then there is branding – it has become difficult these days to figure out where one stops and the other begins.

The reason why we want to believe in the rhetoric, apart from the fact that it sounds nice is that we believe that there must be a system in synergy, that is putting its might behind realizing the potential of the rhetoric. But what if its not. What if a rhetoric is just a rhetoric?

Credibility and trust are built only when there is perfect alignment between the intent, the communication and the delivery on the promises made – but as you know… there is many a slip between the cup and the lip…

How does one sort through the rhetoric and get to the bottomline?

In the war of rhetorics, how does one realize which is the rhetoric of substance and which is an empty rhetoric?

I sit through presentations after presentations – full of nice sounding words which do not, in anyway, reflect the facts. In this fast-food era, performance and performance assessment have more in common with French fries than science! Assessments are subject to the vagaries akin to the instant-food business. It tastes good but has probably knocked off a decade off your life! Our only memory seems to be the short term one – 2 good rhetorics in a 10 min presentation? Did people clap? 10/10 I think for performance! And you thought acting was for movies!

I guess rhetorics are popular because they have this nicely packaged quality about them – just a couple of words (nothing too taxing for our little brain) wrapped up neatly in a bow. Yes, it is certainly very appealing.

We live in a world where rhetoric can win you elections (since most political party do not perform – I guess rhetoric is the only differentiator), Entire training empires are constructed based on videos of famous people and a few bumbling trainers (rather than any coherent scientific approach to training design).

So I’ve decided to jump unto the very crowded rhetoric bandwagon and elbow for space!

Here’s my pick of Top 10 rhetorics (think posters and blaring Star Wars stepping-into-unchartered- territory music) and what they mean: Run as fast as you can, in the opposite direction, when you hear these:

  1. Change is the only constant – we must embrace change! – ‘I have no clue what is wrong and no clue how to fix it, so can we just please start from scratch?!’
  2. Our vision is to deliver customer delight through strategic interventions that will unfold synergies within the organization, build a relationship with the customer…… – HUH? What was that again? ‘I am superman, I can do it all… but I think a vision should be beyond the trappings of measurement!’
  3. What gets measured gets noticed, what does not get measured – does not exist! – ‘I would much rather believe data especially averages of averages of averages, that can be twisted to suit your needs than the truth so that I can always blame the data when the going gets tough’
  4. ‘Rocket science… jargon… blah blah, strategy, deliverables, blah blah’ – HUH? If you can’t convince, confuse. We respect anything we do not understand
  5. Breakthrough idea / paradigm shift / we will change the way YOU see the world – ‘Old wine in new bottle’ – most likely stolen from another ‘before the right time’ thinker
  6. Technology to make life easier! – You will spend the next decade of your life in a battle with the very technology that is to make your life easier, trying to figure it out, pulling your hair out when it hangs or times you out or doesn’t save work that you have slogged over for days!
  7. Its simple! – ‘Can’t really understand the complexities, can’t be bothered’
  8. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! – ‘Let’s not create more work for ourselves, in any case, by the time we find out the problem, I would have switched jobs and it will be someone else’s problem!’
  9. We will engineer a turnaround and save the company – we are the heroes! – C’mon, we need a crisis first else how do we engineer a turnaround. Can we please get some people to mess things up here?
  10. Down with bureaucracy! (we need an open organization) – Can you pls take an appointment from my secretary 2 months in advance, send a note on items of discussion to my EA and speak to me while you are holding the door of my car as I am on the way to the airport!
  11. We help you realize your dreams! – We have no idea what your dream is and frankly we don’t really care… can you pls come and work for us?
  12. Bringing back magic in your life! – We have no clue what magic is, but neither do you… so hope we have fooled you into thinking that we have the answer!
  13. We are the Champions! – I need to repeat this 10 times a day – part of my psychotherapy!
  14. Been there, done that! – I am Mr Know-it-all, …don’t get into specifics though!
  15. This is a wake-up call for humanity! – I was asleep, had a good nap, now can we do some work?
  16. Either you are with us or against us! – If you believe in freedom of expression, go live on another planet, this one is MINE!

Yeah, yeah… I know I said 10, but c’mon, I couldn’t help myself!

I hope you don’t hold it against me that I poke a little fun at all of us out there, slogging it out in the corporate world, every now and again! The corporate world is surely full of go getters who conquer and lend meaning to every jargon in a management grad’s dictionary… but well… and then there are more than a few who are an empty rhetoric.

There is a time to be enamored by the power of the rhetoric…and a time to be mortally scared of its hold on us.

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2 thoughts on “The power of RHETORIC”

  1. Hi Shahana, As I read your blog I wonder what what going through your mind when we met and we discussed values! Rhetoric or what! As part of my doctoral research on the role values play in selling I do suggest that paradigm shift is required ( Maybe I should not that word!) Liked your blogPhil

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