So there’s an old joke that goes something like this:
A lounge singer is introducing a song he’s about to sing, “My next number is a song that was made popular by the great Sammy Davis Jr, who was a very dear friend…” Then under his breath mumbles, “…of Frank Sinatra.”
If you twenty-somethings reading this don’t know who Sammy and Sinatra were, just substitute the names Lohan and Cyrus. Then kill yourself.
If you’ve read my last article, you probably learned that a straight answer is harder to come by than you may have thought. In fact, they’re scarcer than hen’s teeth and edgy Bruno Mars songs.
To take it a step further, you may even find that there are few situations in which a straight answer is required at all. We’ve gotten to a place as a society where we accept what a person said to mean what we thought they meant.
This is bad for he who assumes, but a windfall for the Non-committal Double-Talker. For as long as we accept a half-assed answer, there are those that will be happy to take advantage of the situation and give you one.
Keep your eyes and ears open and you just might learn something.
Spotting Double Talk During a Job Interview
Ah yes, the job interview. If there’s ever a time when we are on our best behavior, it is during the dreaded job interview. The last thing you want to do is say the wrong thing or worse yet, give a definitive answer to a straight question to which we might be held accountable sometime in the future.
“You gotta be wikkid smaht to know this stuff.”
“What do you mean you don’t know how to load balance four Web servers while juggling 14 lunch orders, reciting the company’s core values with your legs behind your head and running in place? You said so during your interview for this position…”
We all embellish during the interview, but if you lie yourself into a corner, you’ve gone too far and I’ll turn my back on you like Paulie Cicero did to Henry Hill in Goodfellas.
But what about the bullshit double-talk that will be flung your way? Allow them to get away with this nonsense during the interview and you will have set a precedent with which they will use to their advantage every chance they get. And that translates to all work and no play making Johnny a dull boy.
Next thing you know, you’re chasing your coworkers down the hallway with an ax and a severe limp.
Q: “What is the pay rate for this position?”
A: “It is commensurate with experience.”
Translation: “We’re going to do our best to get away with paying you as little as you’ll let us. Don’t like it? We’ll screw the next guy waiting in the lobby for HIS interview.”
Q: “Will there be much overtime?”
This can go two ways, but rest assured, depending on what you’re looking for, you’ll get the opposite. Whether it’s extra cash or a somewhat consistent quitting time, you can bet the answer that they give you will make you think that you’ve heard what you wanted to hear. Unless, of course, you know what to listen for.
A: “Some OT is required during time sensitive projects, blah blah blah…”
Translation: “Your ass is ours. If you want to go home, you’re staying. If you want extra cash, sorry, we don’t have the budget for overtime. It’s called ‘work’ and it’s Monday morning for the rest of your life.”
Your only recourse is to be well versed in the ways of the double-talk so that you can lay it on when the time comes.
Are you listening? I’m giving you pearls here.
Spotting Double Talk On a First Date
Let’s cut to the chase here. Dating is a like dancing the Tango while playing chess. Seeing as I don’t do either (and since my wife gets really pissed off when I date), I’m probably not your Go To Guy here.
That said, bullshit is bullshit and a pretty face will make you miss a good deal of double-talk if you get caught in its vortex.
You’re kinda on your own here, Studly, but your Bullshit Detector will still operate if you let it.
My only advice to you would be “Listen. Don’t look. “
You have a better chance of staying out of her deadly web if you focus on what she’s saying, versus what her rack looks like as she’s inhaling and exhaling to say it.
Then there’s her lips and her smile…
You see? I almost fell for it!
When Someone Says “Should be…”
Here we have the non-committal phrases to end all non-committal phrases.
Nowhere in the English language will you find two words better suited to getting someone off the hook than “Should be.”
Try it. You’ll see.
“Should be” is the slicker, ne’er do well older brother version of the more transparent “sort of” and the “-ish” suffix that we hear so much of.
We’ve all heard “-ish” used before…
“He’s sort of a small-ish person.” You’ll hear this in place of the word “dwarf.”
“I’ll be there around four-ish.” That’s actually two non-committal phrases in one, if you were paying attention, but no one is fooling anyone here. If you fall for an “-ish” or a “sort of” you honestly need more help than you will find here.
The difference with “should be” however, is that, while those others tip you off that the person trying to snow you is…well…trying to snow you, “should be” has become accepted as a response to the affirmative, which by definition it simply cannot be.
Is this project going to be done on time? “Should be.”
Will you be ready to go when I get there? “Should be.”
“Should be” is not “Yes,” and it damn well isn’t “No.” It’s not even “Maybe.”
It’s should be. Meaning could be or supposed to be. Also known as, “I think so, but I really have no idea or control over the situation, and I’m reluctant to put any real effort into it. Either way, I’ll be damned if I commit to an answer for which I may be held accountable somewhere down the road.”
Yes, those two little words mean all of that, so you can see that “should be” can be very effective but should be used sparingly, lest you get wise to the novice’s chicanery. You’ll know it when you hear it. Or will you? (I just used it about five seconds ago).
Oh… Have I got your attention now?
“Should be” is the distant cousin of “We’ll have to wait and see.” And…
It Is What It Is (IIWII)
Here’s where it gets dicey, Grasshopper.
Let them get away with a few “should be’s” and you will eventually find yourself in a very strange place called “It Is What It Is.” And that can be some tricky terrain to cover. Unless of course you’ve become adept at identifying the non-committal double-talker.
To understand the nebulous qualities of this phrase, we must first ask ourselves the question, “What does ‘Is’ mean?”
Hey…damned if I know. I’d ask former President Clinton but I doubt he’d be much help.
The man took stonewalling to a new level. His game plan was to request clarification, a la “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
This man just might be up to something…
But did he really say that?? Ummm…yeah he did.
Point of fact, his entire answer is as follows:
“It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If ‘is’ means ‘is and never has been’ that’s one thing – if it means ‘there is none’, that was a completely true statement.”
The clip, when taken out of context, may sound stupid, juvenile and even simplistic when you think about it, but history will show that when backed up against the wall, Slick Willie not only drove the ball back into the paint and shrugged off countless defenders, he flew through the air and dunked all up in Solomon Wisenberg’s grill and whatnot… his tongue extended and dangling to one side.
“I wish I had game like that Clinton Mofo.”
It took a charismatic man of lofty station to get away with such brazen in-your-face stonewalling.
Don’t believe me? Try that one on the little lady and see what happens. Go ahead…I’ll wait.
What makes Clinton’s testimony more impressive (and cements his place in the Bullshitter’s Hall of Fame), is that it went on for FOUR HOURS. The whole while, Willie Wanker sat there with a smile on his face, a crease in his shirt, and not a drop of sweat on his forehead. Quite impressive, really.
As a point of contrast, allow me to illustrate how it’s NOT done.
Clinton’s fatal error (at least in the court of popular opinion) was not knowing where to draw the line between double-talk and outright bullshit. Perhaps if I had written this article a few years earlier…
“IIWII” is a conversation stopper which has no topper. No one knows what it means, yet we all say it. Once it’s said, no one knows how to continue. Worse yet, we all accept it as a statement of truth when in fact, it means nothing at all.
It’s not as if one is saying, “I appreciate that you feel it’s not an ideal situation, but I’m with you in spirit as you attempt to get through it.”
No sir. “It is what it is” is none of that. It’s sort of a verbal or written shoulders shrug, if you will… and even if you won’t.
“It is what it is” is what we say when we don’t know what it is. Because really…what is it? It is what it is, of course!
It’s this sort of circular logic that will drive men to drink. Well, more than usual.
So, what should you take away from all of this?
To absorb the full breadth of this subject is to take someone to the Wizard’s crib and then tell him, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”
I can’t give you all of my secrets because then how am I supposed to double-talk my way out of a jam?
The next time you find yourself looking for answers, ask yourself, “Was my question answered to my satisfaction?”
Well, that would depend upon what the meaning of the word “was” was.
And if that’s not non-committal enough for you, then I don’t know what is…is.