Are you ever irritated by what people say and do? By things you see and hear on television? By unpleasant situations you have to put up with on a daily basis? Guess what? You have lots of company. In fact, a number of books have been written on the subject.
Two of my favorite examples of B.S. are when Bill Clinton looked into the camera and spewed out those now classic zingers, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” and “That depends upon what the meaning of is is.”
But let’s be fair and balanced here. Remember Richard Nixon looking into the camera and saying, “I’m no crook”? What a refreshing revelation to hear from the president of the United States. I’ve never been able to figure out why he chose to use the very word that everyone was already thinking.
He should have put it in a more positive light and said something like, “I’m an honorable man.” Which still would have been B.S., but if you’re going to B.S., why not do it in a positive way?
But B.S. is certainly not restricted to politicians. In fact, most of what you see on TV is B.S. Take Oprah, for example — please, take her! To say anything negative about Oprah is considered heresy … even unpatriotic. Oprah gives new meaning to the term sacred cow.
How about Kim Kardashian, who has become rich and famous for no discernable reason? Or O. J. Simpson’s phony acquittal back in 1995? Or the droning, politically laced acceptance speeches at the Oscars? Or the “Hands up, don’t shoot” tall tales that are fed to us month after month?
But it’s the B.S. that we see and hear in our own little worlds that is the most annoying and most difficult to ignore. For example, I’ve personally had dealings with three people over the years who used the title “Dr.” in front of their names, yet none of them ever graduated from college. In fact, two of them never even attended college at all!
One died at the age of eighty-five, before the general public discovered that the doctorate he had carried through life was nothing more than B.S. Another was found out only as a result of his multimillion-dollar company’s bankruptcy. Amazingly, he was never even indicted, let alone convicted.
The third “Dr.,” however, wins the prize. After nearly forty years, not only is he still “practicing,” he is esteemed as a world-renowned psychologist. In fact, as incredible as it may sound, from time to time he still appears on radio and television shows to offer his “expert” opinion on psychological matters.
The reason I know for a fact that this charlatan has never received a degree in psychology is because many years ago I had a business reason for having him thoroughly checked out. A short summary of the report that came back was that his doctorate degree, his reputation for being on the cutting edge of great breakthroughs in the field of psychology, and his fame were all pure, unadulterated B.S.
And what about the mundane, day-in-day-out B.S. that we all have to put up with — airport security personnel who grope us … six kids behind an ice cream counter, gabbing with each other while ignoring a line of twenty-five customers who are growing increasingly irate … the voice mail runaround that large companies put you through while telling you that “your call is very important to us.”
Then there’s the business world. I hear enough B.S. from people I come in contact with every week to last a lifetime. Most of the people you deal with promise short and deliver long. They overstate their figures. They spin the facts.
But perhaps the biggest B.S. of all is the guy who finally gets around to calling you back three weeks (or months!) after you’ve left two messages for him, and opens by saying, “I apologize for not returning your call sooner, but I’ve been up to my ears in work.”
He’s so mesmerized by his own B.S. that he doesn’t realize that his words are an insult to you. Why? Because they imply that he doesn’t believe that you’re just as busy as he is, and that you therefore have nothing better to do than lounge around and wait for his call.
First and foremost is to make a sincere and ongoing effort to curb your own B.S. Knowingly or unknowingly, we’re all guilty of slinging a bit of B.S. at times, but that doesn’t mean we have to make a religion out of it.
Second, always do your best to steer clear of those who demonstrate they have mastered the art of B.S. And to accomplish that, you have to pay more attention to what people do and less attention to what they say.
Sycophants, in particular, are people who excel at B.S. Simple observation makes it fairly easy to discover that there is often a wide disparity between a sycophant’s flowery words and his anemic follow-through.
Above all, learn to translate. In Hollywood, for example, people love to say things like, “Let’s do lunch.” Which usually means, “Don’t call me; I’ll call you.”
Or the seller who tells a real estate broker, “Trust me. I’ll take care of you.”
Or the attorney who assures you, “I’m not one of those deal-killing attorneys, so you can relax.” To borrow from Mario Puzo, this is your cue to go in with a gun and a mask to make certain that you get what you’re owed.
Finally, of course, there’s the B.S. line that has become part of the lexicon of the comedic world: “Your check is in the mail.” All too often this means, “I’m going to mail your check today.” Worse, it may just be the person’s way of saying, “Get lost.”
Above all, if you really want to protect yourself from the ravaging effects of the B.S. tsunami that perpetually threatens to drown you, depend on no one — and on no one particular deal. The best way to accomplish this is to strive to become as independent as possible.
Recognize that the best answer to your problems is in the mirror. Which means taking matters into your own hands and not expecting anything of anyone. And the only way that can happen is if you refuse to allow the guy in the mirror to B.S. you.
One last word of caution: As you walk away from your mirror, be very careful not to accidentally step in anything.