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Authenticity and The Attack of The Snark
By Seth Simonds on March 31, 2009

If you firmly believe that using profanity and hurling sarcasm during public discussions is the only way to reveal your authentic self, you’ve got a long row to hoe.


Heavy use of sarcasm and profanity is not an effective way to build trust.

You might seem like a good person to have a beer with. You might even seem more relatable for your off-color remarks and frequent use of profanity. That said, my cousin Jeff* is a relatable guy I’m sure you’d like to have a beer with. He’s a master of snark and laces every comment with “choice” words and quick jabs. Jeff is also the last person I’d recommend to present your new business plan to a roomful of investors.

Always keep that roomful of investors in mind. In this new media world of Flip cams and Youtube, Google Alerts and Twitter, every word you say in public (and many you say in private) becomes part of your presentation to potential investors. Those investors aren’t just deciding if they want to invest money into your business concept. They are contemplating the possibility that you, as a person, are worthy of their trust.

5 things to remember about authenticity and building trust:

1. Every person you come in contact with is a potential trust-investor. When you earn a person’s trust, you’ll begin to enjoy the perks of trust. Conversations, recommendations, inspiration, and financial involvement are all benefits of well-earned trust.

2. Profanity is a spice, not a main course. Yes, some people eat habanero peppers with abandon, but they are few and far between. Your best bet is to entertain with thoughtful “dishes” and let others bring their own spice. When it comes to the culinary art of conversations, we each have a different idea of perfection.

3. Sarcasm can’t replace true wit and a bright sense of humor. In the economics of intellect, sarcasm is an inferior good. As consumers (your potential trust-investors) experience an increase in good taste, they require less sarcasm in favor of open communication. Leap to the front and start with open communication.

4. It’s possible to be authentic without being caustic. In the words of many wise people and their copycats, “be yourself, but be your best self”. It is tempting to use harsh words because they get a quick and energetic response. Don’t give in to the temptation! Put the time and effort into building thoughtful, productive conversations. The long-term benefits make up for the lack of instant sparks.

5. You can be relatable without pandering to the lowest common denominator. The joke your friends thought oh-so-funny at the bar last night? It’s probably not that funny and if sharing it today does nothing to sustain or improve your general point, you’ve just wasted time and squandered the precious attention of your audience.

In your rush to be more authentic, don’t forget to show us your positive, uplifting, innovative side. If anybody complains about you slacking in the negativity category, feel free to tell them it’s all my fault. =)

Think of somebody you consider to be truly authentic. What about that person sets him/her apart from the rest?

*Jeff is a fictional name intended to protect the guilty

[Seth Simonds is] writer who lives just north of Boston, MA. I think it should go without saying that I’m also a reader, a thinker, a tea-enthusiast, and know how to put just the right amount of lime in a gin-and-tonic. But many people write without thinking, read without digesting, hate tea, and drink bad gin. I hope you’ll take a moment to set me straight if it ever seems like I’ve fallen into one of those traps! =)



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