Say what you mean – and mean what you say

A friend of mine just got her Visa statement. She had a charge for $50.95 for ‘retail interest’. At first she thought she bought something and just had ‘one of those moments’ remembering what it was. But she was sure she didn’t buy anything for that amount.

So she called Visa. She was right. She hadn’t bought anything. The $50.95 was interest charged for being two days late on a $2000 payment.

My friend was incensed. One reason was the wording ‘retail interest’. It wasn’t clear. In her mind, Visa was covering up the real reason for the charge, which was interest for a late payment. She admitted to being two days late with her payment but ‘retail interest’ really irritated her. It smacked of cover-up.

How often do we try to cover up our real meaning with some fluffy euphemism. Somebody ‘passes’. They don’t die. We have ‘sanitary engineers’ not garbage collectors. We say ‘adult entertainment’ instead of pornography, ‘armed intervention’ instead of war.

Just a few minutes on Google resulted in some mind numbing phrases such as ‘unable to operationalise the customer request’ (meaning the sales person was not helpful). Apparently ‘outsourcing’ is now ‘bestshoring’. And if you’re stealing from a company, you’re ‘liberating captive assets’.

Playing the euphemism card is a dangerous game. People will sense you’re up to something. The best thing to do is to say what you mean, and mean what you say. Keep your language simple and honest. You will be a more powerful, less misunderstood communicator.

By the way, my friend cut up her Visa and moved her money out of the bank into a credit union.