Probably the most critical but unheralded success skill is knowing when someone is full of it, full of themselves, trying to pull the wool over your eyes, or maybe even trying to fool themselves. In any case, knowing when someone is BSing is absolutely a key to success in business.
Why is that? Well, your work life presents thousands of options, opportunities, paths to go down, people to hire, people to work for, people to align yourself with. Or not. But you only have one work life. You have to learn methods to narrow the field. Knowing whether people are being genuine or not is key to narrowing the choices, and narrowing the choices is key to picking the right ones. Simple.
Last night I was watching an interview of Eric Massa, the congressman who resigned in the wake of an ethics investigation.
"That guy is so full of it, you can't believe a word he says," I said to my wife.
"How can you tell?" she said.
"Lots of ways. Every time he opens his mouth, it's a different excuse," I said, then continued, "And he seems panicked, like he's trying to run from something, but he can't get away because he's running from himself."
"You're the one who's full of it," she said.
You see, my wife was the first person to tell me straight to my face when I was BSing her. That was years and years ago. I still try to get one past her on occasion, but she usually catches it. It's a game we play. In the case of Massa, I wasn't playing. Really.
There's an old expression: "You can't BS a BSer." In my case, it appears to be true. I can usually tell when someone's not being genuine, although whether it's with me or with themselves I can never be sure.
There's a body language expert on TV sometimes. Her name is Tonya Reiman. She's very good. Well, I analyze BS, but body language seems to be part of it, although I was never aware of that until I saw Reiman. Anyway, I'm not entirely sure if it's an instinct or a skill or a little of both, but I've had it my whole life. Here's how it seems to work:
10 Ways to Know When Someone's BSing You
- The story changes. You can ask them the same thing three times and get three different answers.
- They act dumb but they're not. It's disingenuous, not a good sign.
- They act smart but they're not. Not necessarily disingenuous, but also not a good sign.
- They try too hard. That's got to give you pause.
- They appear nervous when they shouldn't be.
- They look scared when they shouldn't be.
- They repeat the question. It buys them time to think of an answer.
- There's something in it for them. Anytime somebody's trying to sell you something, there's a good chance you're being BSed.
- They're fanatical. Fanaticism, fundamentalism, call it whatever you want, it's a one-sided view of an issue that cuts off debate. Not good.
- They only present one side. Same thing.
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