Who do you think you are?

An interesting discourse on Twitter with Rob Stevenson and Dom Hiatt this morning got me thinking about descriptive words or phrases that one should never use about oneself.

These are words that are out of bounds when describing ourselves since they refer to other people’s perception of us. Take the word ‘gorgeous’ for example. Or ‘funny’. It is simply not done to describe ourselves in such glowing terms.

Interestingly, it is ok to criticise ourselves. ‘Pompous’ is a phrase I would use about myself in my worst moments. That’s ok, I can get away with that because I’m being rude about myself (or one might say accurate, it doesn’t really matter). But I can’t call myself ‘witty’ (even though I secretly think I am).

I’m not sure if I can call myself ‘self deprecating’ though. If I do, I’m not. If I don’t, I am. Which means I can. But then I’m not.

The point of all this is what words we can and can’t use to describe ourselves in a business sense.

Dom had already covered ‘Entrepreneur’ and ‘Hero’ in this articleTony McKenna chipped in with ‘Guru’ and ‘Thought Leader’ (my use of capitals is intentional).

My personal bugbear is ‘Mentor’. As a business coach (I can call myself that because I spent 2 years to get a diploma in business coaching) I come across people who say they act as a mentor to business owners. Now, I always thought of a mentor as someone I looked up to, whose advice I would listen to, whose actions I might copy. My old teacher, Mr Gallie, was something of a mentor to me, as I copied how he approached life in my formative years. But it would have seemed somewhat presumptuous if he had ever referred to himself as my mentor.

In business terms, a mentor tends to be someone who dispenses advice to others, something I’m not a fan of. Business coaching taught me that only the individual can decide what’s right for them, based on their world view and values, and I should refrain from telling them what to do. Now I come to think of it maybe that’s also why I don’t like Guru!

So, what other phrases should we refrain from using? Let’s gather them all together in the comments section of this article and then in future when someone calls themselves a Thought Leader we can simply point them to this article to see the error of their ways!

Your suggestions please, you brilliant people!

Chris is an author. He can call himself that because he has published a novel. Which you can find out about here 

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