Saying it to your face

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Speaking as you find and telling it like it is is likely to get you punched. So deal with it.

As another series of Celebrity Big Brother makes its barely-detectable presence felt on that percentage of TV screens whose owners would ever bother to press ‘5’, this is a good time to reflect on exactly what the social advantages of ‘saying it to your face’ might be.

In the realm of reality TV, contestants regularly cite – as evidence of their honesty and no-nonsense attitude – an approach to life in which the next confrontational conversation is rarely further away than the next mealtime.

On telly, as in social media and life in general, “I say it you your face, me” is the ill thought-through mantra of the emotionally illiterate who can’t, or won’t, display any empathy for their fellow human, who won’t rein in their awful opinions to save someone’s blushes, or who aren’t prepared to operate within the established perimeters of good manners as a means of oiling the wheels of social cohesion.

“So deal with it” is another graceless addition to the canon, placing the responsibility for handling someone’s ill-mannered rudeness onto the person who is being spoken to.

There you go, it’s your problem.

In common perception, ‘Saying it to your face’ is far preferable than a really good two-faced bitch behind someone’s back. Although that perception is clearly wrong. It’s a form of honesty, but a particularly mendacious one.

There’s absolutely nothing better than discussing someone’s extensive failings behind their back, and nothing worse than the knowledge that they’ve sat there and listened to it (other than that sinking feeling you get when you’ve just hit ‘send’ and realise you’ve accidentally texted your scarcely-edited views to them). It turns out that saying it to someone’s face is, rightly, socially awkward.

Deception and bitchiness is far preferable than cards-on-the-table, in-your-face confrontation. The former is what makes the world go round; the latter is how wars start.

People who claim that they say it how it is rarely do so. They normally say something quite rude, with whatever it is they’re saying adhering only to the most limited definition of how things are. Namely, whatever comes into their little heads in an angry moment.

‘Speaking as I find, me’ is an aggressive act, inviting confrontation and generally lacking any tact or diplomacy. It expects everyone to put up with your stupid opinions because you don’t care what they think. That’s because you are right, about everything. Always.

You speak as you find.
You say it to their face.
They know where they stand with you.
You just deal with it and move on.
You missed the lesson on social skills.

So deal with it.

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Half a percent and giving 110%

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Halving ‘a percent’ is a bit like giving 110%. You can’t do either.

Thank goodness for the BBC, just about the only institution left which perseveres with the expression “half of one percent”, no matter how much clumsier it makes its news bulletins sound. Because of course half a percent makes no sense at all.

If only they’d apply such mathematical rigour to the type of shows on which contestants declare that they are going to “give it 110%”. Probably physically impossible.

The giving of 110% is currently in a state of flux, already having hit 120% and showing signs of routinely being inflated to a million percent by the end of the year.

– Oh I agree

Ab-so-lutely.

– Like, 1,000,000%

Health and Safety

It’s absolutely never about ‘health’. It’s always about ‘safety’.

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‘Health & Safety’ is the catch-all term for everything that could possibly go wrong in the workplace. It obviously springs from the legislation and executive of the same name – but in practice, the instances of the ‘health’ bits of Health & Safety are non-existent. It’s always just ‘safety’.

You can’t leave that there.

Why not?

It’s Heath and Safety.

Well no. “It” isn’t “health and safety” at all. It isn’t “health” or “safety” either. It is, most likely, just a possible risk in relation to people’s safety. More specifically, “it is a breach of health and safety regulations, but only those regulations which are specifically in relation to public safety.” Admittedly that’s a bit of a mouthful.

That doesn’t stop the corporate emails warning people not to do things for reasons of ‘Health & Safety’. A phrase unthinkingly churned out with the regularity of an irritating playground retort. “I know you are, but what am I?”

Because reasons.

A whole industry exists around Health and Safety. Companies whose sole, life-sapping purpose is to produce workshops and ‘learning materials’ covering topics such as ‘how to not block a fire exit with the sort of mountain of paper files that no longer exists anywhere’.

It’s a thrilling half day in anyone’s working life.

Who can tell me what the risks are in this scenario?

Anyone?

That’s right. They might trip over that extension lead, hurtle headlong through that plate glass window thereby severing a major artery, knock those computer monitors into those fish tanks, electrocuting their colleagues and presenting a fire risk.

Any other issues?

Countless corporate videos have seen struggling Lycra-clad ‘comedy’ actors demonstrating hilariously-exaggerated health and safety scenarios played out in the workplace, teaching vital subjects such as ‘how to lift a box’, like a sort of corporate Laurel & Hardy but an awful lot less funny even than that.

And who hasn’t spent a fun, interactive, afternoon in front of a PC doing a wearisome Health & Safety “quiz”, the failure of which can only be achieved by deliberately choosing the least likely answer? I sat through a three year degree course and you’re asking me multiple choice questions about fire exits?

Health is about disease. Hospitalisation. Germs. Viruses. Colds. Communicable unpleasantness. Pregnancy. Infection. Ebola. MRSA. Immune systems. Fluids. Rot. Frightful sordidness. Nobody bothers about these. Except in hospitals, hopefully.

Safety is about falling off things. Tripping down stairs. Having a pot of paint fall on your head when you walk under a ladder. Leaving a chair on a walkway or trailing an electrical cable across a stairwell. Bad backs. Ergonomics. Hot water. Coffee lids. Electrocution. Irradiation. Slips. Broken bones.

So what are those mythical things that represent both a health and safety risk simultaneously?

A bucket of anthrax spores balanced precariously over a toilet cubicle door? The biological risk worsened by the threat of concussion?

A badly adjusted and positioned office chair, whose twin evils of location and ergonomics cause simultaneously a ‘trip hazard’ and a debilitating period of backpain-related sick leave? Yeah, slackers. Take an ibuprofen.

In most cases, and as with most things, the appeal to health and safety can be safely dispensed with in favour of ‘common sense’. Sadly there is no legislation or government quango responsible for that, nor corporate departments dedicated to its promotion.

Crap Slogans

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No brand is complete without a crap, ungrammatical slogan.

You might expect that people whose living is made from the creation and maintenance of ‘brands’ might, as a point of personal pride given their awful choice of gainful employment, have even so much as a flimsy grasp of the mechanics of the language in which their trade is plied.

You might expect them to want to create brand constructs that don’t set the teeth on edge or have their potential customers mentally correcting their howlers.

You might. But you will be disappointed. Because the essential component of a modern brand is a nonsensical slogan, usually consisting of a verb and an adjective.

Drive confident.
Eat fresh.
Live strong.
Think different.
Leave happy.
Play thirsty.
Think small.
Travel well.
Fly right.
Be direct.
Think smart.

It doesn’t take much to correct any of these, of course. But we shouldn’t have to, any more than we should have to explain communication essentials to anyone who engages as follows:

How are you?

Yeah, I’m good.