Why Must We Be so Damn Clever All the Time?

Ten minutes had gone by and I still hadn’t thought of a good response. There I was, sitting at my desk, eyeballs locked on my Twitter feed. Typing, pausing, erasing, typing, pausing, erasing, typing, pausing, erasing. I was paralyzed by a moment of relentless un-cleverness.

Fuck it. I finally wrote:

“Thanks for the Twitter love!”

Someone had re-tweeted a post of mine earlier and I wanted them to know how much I appreciated it. But I was stuck in the grimy depths of the word mines, trying to figure out how to be brilliant in my response. A lame “thank you” seemed way too… simple.

I love Twitter, mostly for its forced brevity. I also hate it because it’s the ultimate CleverFest, where all the stars come out in their top hats and sequined bras. Unless a post is light and fluffy with a side of edge, people tend to scroll right past it. It’s hard enough to condense a big thought down into a mere 140 words. But to also be amusing + glib + deep?

Jeez.

Why can’t we just say what we think?

I love you. I don’t understand. Your work is magnificent. I disagree. You’re welcome. I need help. I want to help. Let’s talk about it. I hate that… but I adore you. This beer tastes like furniture polish.

Saying what you think seems pretty straightforward.

Have you ever been to a dinner party where there’s that one guy who has everyone ha-ha-ha-ing all night long? He’s probably wearing a skinny suit and novelty socks, waving around a martini (dirty, just like Tony Stark’s) with expert precision. And he is so dang clever. A cagey comeback for every story. Enough snark to fill an elephant’s underpants. Always on. Always ready with the perfectly-timed quip.

For a while you think, “This guy is awesome!” and you circle him like a Russian satellite for a good chunk of the night. Eventually, though, his “on-ness” becomes grating. Where’s the real conversation? You glance around the room furtively and notice a group in the corner having what appears to be an engaging and meaningful dialogue. There’s a fire behind their eyes, the kind that can only be lit by a provocative sharing of ideas.

“How can I sneak into that conversation?” you wonder.

Clever vs. Interesting

There are those who are surface-skimmingly skillful at procuring grins and chortles. There are others who are so goddamn fascinating, you’d never think of leaving a conversation with them.

It’s the difference between being clever and being interesting. Clever is for a moment. Interesting seeps into the cracks and crevices… and is remembered.

When it comes to running a business, content should go so much deeper than mere cleverness. People love clever. But they also get bored with clever. Fast. It becomes just another tambourine in the noisy parade of a crowded world.

But to be interesting?

It’s the stuff loyalty and love is made of.

I genuinely feel bad for businesses who don’t put themselves “out there” because they don’t think they are clever enough. Can’t figure out how to write dippy-daffy listicle content like Buzzfeed? Believe me, you’re better off for it.

Because what the world really needs? Is some good, old-fashioned “telling it like it is.” To make a person/client/stranger/dog named Mr. Wiggles feel special, it should be enough to simply say, “You matter to me. Thank you for being you.” Instead, we fret and fuss over how to be more hilarious.

Maybe what’s remarkable these days is not an “all-clever-all-the-time-try-the-veal” mentality, but the ability to be genuine in the way we communicate. To saturate our customers’ lives with sincerity. To leave the perpetual snark to those who are constantly tapping the mic to see if it’s on.

Be original with your business content. Have fun with it… Lord knows the world could use more hope and happiness. But above all else, be real. Don’t be Dinner Party Guy. Be the group in the corner that everyone secretly wishes they could be a part of.

10 comments leave a reply
  • October 29, 2015 at 12:45 pm
    SRITEJA REDDY

    Wonderful post. I would have liked if it was longer and more in-depth. But interestingly written and especially like the arguments of interesting.

    Reply

    • October 30, 2015 at 2:23 pm
      Maisie

      Haha! I’ve never had anyone ask for LONGER blog posts. I’ll definitely look into it, Sriteja. 🙂

      Reply

  • October 29, 2015 at 12:54 pm
    Emily

    Love this and can SO relate – your Twitter example cracked me up! The clever v. interesting dilemma is one of the many reasons I love being in countries where English isn’t the primary language and communication is most successful in a stripped down way – there’s no room for cleverness, just integrity.

    Reply

    • October 30, 2015 at 2:27 pm
      Maisie

      Such an interesting comment, Emily! I just returned from Bogotá and completely understand your point. There’s no way I could have been witty. It was hard enough to simply order a beer at a restaurant. 🙂

      Reply

  • October 29, 2015 at 3:50 pm
    Mike Harrington

    In keeping with the spirit of this piece, I’ve got nothing clever to add.

    Simply that I loved reading this. 🙂

    Clarity trumps clever.

    Reply

    • October 30, 2015 at 2:27 pm
      Maisie

      Thanks, Mike. Cheers to clarity!

      Reply

  • October 29, 2015 at 8:34 pm
    Megan

    Oh. My. Goodness. I love everything about this post. You perfectly described the reason I just can’t love Twitter. And I’ve so been there with dinner party guy- not only is he only out for the quick laugh, but he’s also just out for people’s attention, nothing more. Not a deep friendship or meeting up for coffee or whatever, just attention from as many people as possible in the here and now. Interesting and meaningful is always better. Always. Also, “This beer tastes like furniture polish.” had me cracking up!

    Reply

    • October 30, 2015 at 2:28 pm
      Maisie

      You are a gem, Megan. Thanks for the comment! I’ve noticed that the older I get, the less I want to be around Dinner Party Guy. “I haven’t got time for the pain”— like the old commercial goes. 🙂

      Reply

  • October 30, 2015 at 9:24 pm
    Ani

    I hope you’re writing a book or ten. I can’t get through a lot of blog posts, but I didn’t want this to end.
    I’m bookmarking you.

    Reply

  • October 31, 2015 at 7:31 am
    Beth

    I, too, have struggled with the Twitter responses. But you’re right – it’s better to just say what you mean and not worry about being clever. So I will say this: I always read your blog posts. Always. Because you always have something interesting to say AND you say it in a way that only you could. So thanks.

    Reply

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