Why Millennials and salespeople
need to NOT start every response
with “So…” and then– to top it off
— fail to answer what’s asked. If
you’re in the job market, or a sales
presentation, it would be like not
taking a shower for a few weeks!
Q. Who is your very best friend?
A. So… Jeremy and Charlie and Kim and Sheila are the people I see most often.
Q. What was your Mother’s most important advice?
A. So… my Mother always made me eat all my cereal.
Q. When did you leave the house today?
A. So… I never actually went home last night, y’know.
Q. Where do you work?
A. So… my company is in the city and yesterday I had to drive in.
Q. Why did you do that?
A. So… I think there are lots of ways people can respond.
Q. How much money is in your pocket?
A. So… my wallet is in the car.
Go ahead and ask a reasonable fact-fetching question of one of the 80 million people born between 1977 and 2000. The odds are good that –no matter how specific your inquiry may be– the answer these days often starts out with “So…” and then proceeds to not give a direct answer.
Do these “So…” first-responders imply disinterest? Evasiveness? Insecurity? Incompetence? Un-socialability? Dumbness? Distrust? Early dementia? Lack of self-esteem? Poor listening skills? Disinterest? Societal disconnect? Snobbishness? Perhaps some. Perhaps all.
First of all, according to Jane Solomon’s post on DICTIONARY.com, “So” can be used as an adverb, a conjunction, a pronoun, an interjection, or an adjective. And the “spread” of it into popular use today as a sentence opener, especially among young people, is “probably due to the tech boom” and specifically, “programmers,” according to NPR’s Geoff Nunberg. The GRAMMARLY Blog suggests Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is partly to blame for “notoriously using ‘So…’ to start sentences.”
It’s been suggested that “So…” is the new “Um…” or “Uh…” or “Er…” nervous hesitancy used to fill the verbal air while momentarily thinking about what to say prior to responding, but I am doubtful. “Um” and “Uh” and “Er” are simply sounds.
“So” is an actual word. It is a connecting word. It is not a question/ answer connecting word. It is a cause-and-effect connecting word, and is used to connect a thought, word, or action with a consequence.
A BBC host says that at the beginning of a (non-consequential) sentence, using the word “So” is an attempt “to try to sound important” and “intellectual.” A popular psychologist calls it a “weasel word” used to “avoid giving a straight answer.” Not a good practice for any business, and especially for small business, which is much more vulnerable to “beating around the bush” than corporate types who often seem to thrive on being indirect.
FAST COMPANY says “So…” at the beginning of an answer “Insults your audience… Undermines your credibility… and Demonstrates discomfort with the subject matter.”
Mark Mason in The SPECTATOR, says it’s due to “accommodation” because we try to be part of groups and often simply do and say things that others in the group do and say. It, he says, “spreads like the flu.” He cleverly ends his (“It’s SO Annoying”) post on the subject with:
“As ye so, so shall ye reap”
So it’s contagious! Some top TV news analysts have begun integrating the (shall we call it) evasiveness into their summary statements. And it’s inching it’s way into the 40+ crowd. Personally, I have no problem with starting a sentence with “So…” unless it’s the beginning of a sentence that is answering a direct question.
Bottom Line: If someone in a job interview or “sale size-up” meeting says, “So, tell me about your (or the product/service) background, you might consider it an endearing attempt to help you feel comfortable, but if you respond (or answer ANY direct question) by starting with “So…” your job (or sale) prospects may very well be doomed. It can easily be received in the same fashion as you folding your arms and staring at the door! Not giving a straight, direct answer can be taken as a mixed message.
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