August 5, 2017 The Hybperbolic Hyperbole of Language Today

Not long ago, I was at an internal gathering of all my agency’s external senior leaders. One of these mature, senior representatives of our agency and our director began talking about the challenges of our new assignments philosophy. He talked about our shift to moving people around more deliberately and strategically and how that was causing angst among our employees at his site. He said, “The employees have The Sword of Damacles hanging over them and we act like it’s no big deal.” I challenged him immediately and took umbrage with his position that his employees were not in immediate life-threatening danger and that we had worked with him and the rest of his leadership team to ensure we considered each employee’s personal and professional well-being before making any assignment decisions. Ironically, he got mad at me for calling him out on the inappropriate use of the Sword of Damacles imagery and said he was just trying to make a point. Unfortunately, I see this all too often in today’s world

Sadly, I see politicians use this approach in order to emphasize their position to their base electorate. The problem with that is everyone (including the rest of the world) hears the words that are poorly chosen or improperly used. It’s almost as if we have forgotten how to make a point without having to exaggerate our position. Does the most fantastical or grandiose argument always win the day? I don’t think so. In her book “Quiet,” Susan Cain explains that many of the leaders we see in our lives and in our world often get to positions of authority through because they are extroverts who pound their chest, wave their arms, say things loudly and use hyperbole to get and keep our attention. But Cain writes that all this attention grabbing does not a good leader make. In fact, she points out that most of the women and men who successfully led various organizations through major transformation, challenging points in history or growing a business from the ground up are introverts…people who use language sparingly and don’t’ need to distort words to make a point.

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