“The greatest enemy of clear language is insincerity.” George Orwell
We all remember the saying: “Eyes are the window to the soul.” It sounds poetic, but it’s wrong. Forget about the eyes. The real “windows to our soul” are words. Nothing defines who—or what we are—like the words we use in everyday conversation.
Just as with sex, if you’re just going through the motions, it’s lousy. It’s repetition. Even something as simple as talking dirty requires vulnerability and sincerity. Otherwise you’re just cussing in bed.
Remember on Seinfeld when Jerry’s date starts talking dirty, and he tries to get in the act by saying, “You mean the panties your mother laid out for you?” Is he incapable of dirty talk? Or is the judge right when he jails Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer for their complete disregard for people in general.
Whether it’s complete disregard, or they’re just very shallow, their words — especially when it comes to sex — show how insincere they really are.
Elaine won’t go to bed with one guy until he can prove he’s “sponge worthy.” George gets out of every relationship by saying, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Kramer stops Jerry and Elaine from smacking each other around by saying, “Don’t you see you love each other?” — as if either could love or be loved?
“Writing is like having sex. It’s not that hard to do. It’s just hard to find someone to pay for it.”
It doesn’t take a comedy series to show how insincere our words really are. They trip us up every time. We go for expected words, long words or phony words. They come out of us, as Orwell described, “like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.”
One woman tweeted the other day: “Writing is like having sex. It’s not that hard to do. It’s just hard to find someone to pay for it.”
Maybe that’s our biggest problem. We think writing and sex are easy. Sincerity isn’t an issue until until someone like Kramer says, “You stink.”
I was reading a marketing seminar piece the other day. The writer wanted to draw attention to what he thought was a brilliant line: “Consumers don’t buy products, they buy an extension of themselves.”
Well, a sleek sports car may be an extension, but it doesn’t make the owner any less of a phony. Will women stop and stare? Probably. Will they overlook the fact that he’s a phony? Nope. Once the novelty wears off, they’ll ditch him like an old Pinto.
When we write or talk insincerely, we’re essentially saying to our readers — or partners — “Don’t wait for me.”
Cars, clothes, technology — none of these things will make us “sponge worthy” if we’re not sponge worthy in the first place. Neither will words. Using words we think make us sound sincere or intelligent won’t cut it if they aren’t us.
Think back to that last episode of Seinfeld. As they’re leaving the courtroom, Elaine says to Puddy, “Don’t wait for me.” Puddy shrugs and says, “Okay.”
Puddy’s nonchalance is caused by two things: One, they’re both phonies; two, losing a phony to the prison system doesn’t take a lot out of you.
When we write or talk insincerely, we’re essentially saying to our readers — or partners — “Don’t wait for me.” Based on our history of insincere words, of course they’re going to shrug and say “Okay.”
On dating sites today, they estimate 70 percent of people copy each other’s profiles. The same sentiments appear again and again: “I’m not looking for Prince Charming. I just want someone who understands me and will treat me with respect. I’ll do the same for him.”
Like with sex, if you want good head, it doesn’t hurt to givegood head.
That’s fine if your prospective suitor isn’t looking for sincerity. What about people who are? Why would they respond to the woman who copied the profile above and added: “Please don’t send me: ‘Hey there, good looking,’ or ‘How’s it goin’, babe?’ I’m not here to change your diapers. Show me you’ve got a head on your shoulders”?
There’s a wonderful adage about sex: If you want good head, it doesn’t hurt to give good head. We’re a reciprocal society. Demanding what you’re not willing to give makes you either a pure capitalist or a Kardashian.
The same holds true when someone writes: “Does It Actually Matter What I Say Here?” and leaves the profile blank. On one hand, she’s probably right. Pictures get four times as many responses as what people include in their profiles. On the other, giving up on words altogether could limit her respondents to the non-verbalists — which could include a few primates (a twenty word vocabulary is all you need on Twitter).
And just as Kramer accused Jerry of being an “anti-dentite” because Jerry thinks Tim, his dentist, converted to Judaism for the jokes, this woman could be seen as an “anti-wordite,” like Elaine using “yada, yada.”
As one episode of Seinfeld demonstrated, those who “yada yada” tend to skip over things, like how many partners they’ve had or their prison history.
If we’re not telling them about their dancing, why admit their crazy monkey sex isn’t worth a banana?
Remember office party when Elaine decides to start the dancing off. She’s a terrible dancer. Nobody tells her she’s terrible — not because she’s their boss — but because she’s shallow.
We let shallow people keep dancing, just like we let insincere people keep writing insincere words and having insincere sex. If we’re not telling them about their dancing or their writing, why admit their crazy monkey sex isn’t worth a banana?
Have you ever wondered how two people can tell the same joke and only one is funny? We had a client once who needed a speech. He asked our account director to do it because he was funny. The speech bombed. The client blamed the account director. It never occurred to him that humor requires sincerity. The account guy had it, the client didn’t.
You can’t transfer sincerity, but you can develop your own. Here’s some good advice from Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul:
Sincerity means dropping the image façade and showing a willingness to be vulnerable. Tell it the way it is, lumps and all. Don’t worry if your presentation isn’t perfect; ask from your heart. Keep it simple and people will open up to you.
If you find that too hard to do, keep dancing, keep buying sports cars and, sure, keep having crazy monkey sex. Nobody’s going to tell you’re lousy, or a phony or not worth a banana.
I doubt they’ll be waiting for you to get out of prison, either.
Robert Cormack is a freelance copywriter, novelist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback). Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details.