If you’ve ever lived in an apartment or a college dorm, you’re probably aware that toothpaste offers a fast and cheap way to hide nail holes and other small damage to the walls. Anyone who has ever tried to sell a house has probably heard that slapping a quick coat of paint on the walls can make rooms look newer and fresher. Nearly everyone who visits a dentist performs his or her most vigorous brushing an hour before the appointment. And we seem to have a growing percentage of the population who thinks a quick spritz of body spray is an adequate replacement for a good-old-fashioned shower.
We all know that those quick cover-ups never really fool anyone. They might divert our attention for a moment or two, but when we look (or sniff) more closely, the truth becomes evident.
The same idea applies to people who try to replace “negative” words with more “positive” choices. Try to write a committee report than mentions problems, and invariably, someone will chime in with, “instead of calling them ‘problems,’ what if we call them ‘challenges’?”
Okay, that’s a softer approach, but softer generally isn’t as effective. If part of your role is to convince people that something is a problem, you shouldn’t hide that problem under politically correct verbiage. Being frank may not be as warm and fuzzy, but it’s a heck of a lot more communicative and effective.