10 Ways to Avoid Being Labeled a Bullshit Artist

In the past few months, I’ve heard numerous people use the term “Bullshit Artist” in reference to certain individuals.

And my personal policy is, whenever I hear a new word or phrase more than three times in three months, I research it.

So, according to Dictionary.com, UrbanDictionary.com and MyDictionary.com – and some helpful tweeters who shared their insights (thanks!) – the most prevalent definitions of a Bullshit Artist are:

• “A person expert at deception, and hype.”
• “A person with a talent for convincing lies.”
• “A person who habitually exaggerates, flatters, or talks nonsense.”
• “A person who lies/boasts incessantly, usually to comedic effect, intentional or accidental.”
• “A person who specializes in a field of feeding its surrounding persons with uselessness.”
• “A true master of verbal façade who gets off on selling worthless information as if it was fact.”

Now, obviously, I know YOU’RE not one of them.

But I’m sure you know somebody who is. And because it doesn’t matter what YOU think – only what YOUR CUSTOMERS remember – let’s explore a collection of practices that will help you avoid being labeled as a Bullshit Artist:

1. Punch people in the face with your credibility. Everyone has an unequaled background – but not everyone knows how to position it strategically. Your mission is to articulate your expertise as early and explicitly as possible. Customers rarely proceed without proof.

Whether you use testimonials, logos of big clients you’ve worked with, awards you’ve won or pictures of you doing what you do. Leave no question of eligibility. Also, be sure to follow up your initial punch with a timeline of credibility. Show people you’re not going away. Longevity isn’t a color in a Bullshit Artist’s palette. How are you closing the credibility gap?

2. Lower the volume. As Denzel Washington once said, “The loudest one in the room is usually the weakest one in the room.” And as the late Dave Matthews Band saxophone player Leroi Moore once said, “You can make a song sound smaller by trying to make it big.”

So, just relax. No need for aggressive self-assertion. The strong falcon hides its claws. Let go of the need to prove your superiority. If you rock, they’ll feel the music. Even if you don’t turn it up to eleven. What volume is your life at?

3. Talk with your pads. This was the motto of my high school football team. “You guys are bigger than trash talk,” Coach Parks would say. “Don’t stoop down to their level. And if you hear a player on the other team running his mouth at you, don’t say a word. When YOU need to let out your emotions and prove your worth, you talk with your pads.”

So we did. We talked with our pads. And that’s exactly why were we undefeated.

Lesson learned: When all you do is talk (without supportive action and ability) it’s extremely hard for people to hear you over the sound of your own inflated ego. On the other hand, talking with your pads is a LOT louder. Because it’s jolting. Because it’s honest. Because it’s self-evident. Remember: When you talk with your pads, people perk up and listen. What are you talking with?

4. Avoid unspecified attribution. Studies show. Research proves. Scientists say. Psychologists report. Experts believe. They say. There’s an old story that says. I’ve heard. Most people agree. It is said that. Critics say. Statistics show. Somebody once said. The reviews say.

No. No, no, no. None of that is good enough. In a conversation, speech, blog post, or opening statement to a jury, unspecified attribution doesn’t cut it. You need to PROVE your point. With facts. Sources. Numbers. Dates. And not statistics – because those are fabricated pieces of bullshit that people manipulate to make their case look better.

Remember: Specificity = Credibility. Ambiguity is the enemy. If you can’t back it up, pack it up. Are you speaking with meaningful concrete immediacy?

5. Pull back the veneer. Ever met someone that is an expert at LOOKING like she’s successful, but not actually successful? I know a few people like this. And I’m not suggesting that the “act as if” philosophy is wrong. Rather, I echo David Newman’s thought: “It’s OK to fake till you make it – as long as you eventually get around to actually making it.”

Therefore: Release your artificiality, reach back to pure self and rejoin the truth. Your truth. How do people experience you?

6. Recognize the distinctions. Bullshit Artists walk a fine line. Your mission is to detect the difference. Here’s a list of examples:

a. In-demand doesn’t mean highly paid – popularity doesn’t necessarily indication profitability.
b. Passionate doesn’t mean productive – some fires just burn with no purpose.
c. Cool doesn’t mean useful – baseline remarkability isn’t enough.
d. Desirable doesn’t mean satisfying – sustainability is the secret.
e. Activity doesn’t mean accomplishment – there’s a difference between motion and progress.
f. Attention doesn’t mean conversion – web hits are an acronym for “How Idiots Track Sales.”
g. Creativity doesn’t mean innovation – one is a state of being, the other is a practice of action.
h. Dazzling doesn’t mean sustainable – shtick must be supported by substance.
i. Knowledge doesn’t mean wisdom – information is worthless until applied and LIVED.
j. Experience doesn’t mean expertise – only reflection upon that experience does.

To avoid being labeled as a Bullshit Artist, beware of the fine line. What distinctions are you making in your business?

7. You’re more influential when you ask questions. Next time you attend a department or team meeting, notice two kinds of attendees: Those who quip and those who question.

Which of the two are most likely to be labeled as a Bullshit Artist? Veil your light until the proper moment, drop your bomb, then sit back and watch people’s brains explode. What questions are you known for asking?

8. Ditch the jargon. Articulate strategy and ideas in plain language. The less jargon you use, the more engaging you become. In the writing world, shorter sentences get read. In the speaking world, shorter sentences get HEARD. So, think like a writer. Watch those long and cumbersome sentences. Don’t construct your ideas in a way that overburdens people’s brains.

For example, some leaders spew one idea after another. Meanwhile, listeners are still stuck on the FIRST one, trying to figure out what heck you meant. Be careful. Non-brilliance might be forgivable, but time wasting isn’t. Keep your message lean, low-carb and plucked of nonessential words. How meaty are your messages?

9. If you have to tell people you AREN’T, you probably are. Beware of unnecessary declarations of authenticity, honesty and sincerity. Think about it. Wouldn’t YOU raise an eyebrow to someone who kept uttering phrases like: To be perfectly honest with you … I’ll level with you here … Honestly… The truth is … I’m not gonna bullshit you here…

How would that make you feel? Maybe a little suspicious of his credibility? Maybe a little curious why he keep reminding you how honest he is? Watch your language. Having a “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” attitude isn’t fooling anybody. Are poor word choices forfeiting your sales?

10. When you find yourself in the company of deceptive hearts, leave. Be careful whom you roll with. It’s possible to be labeled a Bullshit Artist solely based on proximity. So, if you suddenly feel the need to plug your nose or roll your pant legs up, get out. Fast.

Surround yourself with doers – not talkers – and they will both validate your credibility AND inspire you to continue executing. Are you being fair to yourself, your reputation and your business by continuing to be friends with this person?

REMEMBER: Bullshit Artists only need to be impeached once.

Don’t become one of those people.

In conclusion, let’s remember the words of Maya Angelou, who reminds us:

“When people show you who you are – believe them.”

Do people believe you?

For the list called, “26 Ways to OUT Brand the Competition,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

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