Okay, it’s time for another pet peeve of mine that has been rearing its ugly head in recent months. I can understand people using phrases like “unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know about …” in conversations with people they have rapport with. But lately, I’ve seen these snide remarks used in business situations.
In addition to publishing my own e-zine, I also subscribe to a number of others in the topics that interest me. In the last month or so, I’ve seen people use these idiotic and condescending phrases in their e-zines. First, people were using it in reference to Susan Boyle’s rise to stardom. Now people are using it to describe the news regarding the recent deaths of celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon and Farrah Fawcett.
Not everyone pays attention to pop culture news (or even current events) so you shouldn’t ever assume that because you think something’s a big story, that others are aware of it. I spent most of Christmas weekend in 2004 bouncing back between two hospitals so I didn’t hear about the big tsunami that hit Indonesia until a couple days after it happened. Yet someone asked me if I lived under a rock — then felt dumb when I said that I didn’t notice the news because I had three family members in two hospitals.
It’s tempting to use these types of phrases because some people think they sound cool. But in business situations, they’re not appropriate as you’re insulting your audience. One of my trainers pointed out a blog post about Susan Boyle that used this phrasing and said to me “well I must be living in a cave because I have no clue who she is.”
A better alternative is to start off with “in case you’re not familiar with…” and then explain the person or situation in a sentence or two. So in the case of Michael Jackson, you could say “in case you’re not familiar with him, he was one of the most popular singers during the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s.” It sounds better than “unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know who Michael Jackson is.”
Think before you speak (or write) — it’ll save you from looking foolish.