I think the audio version is better than the text one this week. Listen on Spotify.
I am insanely embarrassing
I joined a band one time. My then thirteen-year-old daughter said, semi-jokingly:
“Dad, everything you’ve done in your life has been mildly embarrassing. But this kicks it up to INSANELY embarrassing.”
It did not change my mind, because I believe in doing at least one thing each year with potential for massive embarrassment. And I was not asking her to go to the gigs.
But she was also right. It’s the natural order of things. Younger people are repelled by older people trying to do anything vaguely youthful, and that’s fine. It’s like when scientists found the evolutionary purpose of dad dancing.
The discussion continued in the car, as I ferried her and her friends about. One of the friends’ dad played in a cover band. The friend commented:
“No child should ever have to witness their dad on a stage going Wooo-ah-oh, this sex is on fiiiiiiire,” she said.
I don’t believe I’ve heard a truer word spoken, before or since.
Rizz, but for bizz-ness
Her comment came back to me recently when LinkedIn’s news team floated the idea of rizz, but for business.
Rizz is Oxford’s Word Of The Year, the winner of a public vote between four finalists (rizz beat Swiftie among others).
“ ‘rizz’ is a colloquial noun, defined as style, charm, or attractiveness; the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner.”
A shortening of “charisma”, rizz came out of gaming and online culture, and was brought to global popularity by streamer Kai Cenat.
According to my sources, it has kinda replaced “game”.
Then, and here’s where it goes off the rails, it got to LinkedIn. Where rizz got repackaged as any kind of persuasive skill.
LinkedIn News picked it up as their Idea of the Day:
“In meetings, ‘rizz’ can help get us out of a tricky situation. It can defuse stressful conversations with the boss. At events, ‘rizz’ can naturally make you the centre of attention. ‘Rizz’ helps to be lucky. 🤔 Question: can ‘rizz’ be taught? It is difficult to teach soft skills…”
And so the verbal dad-dance begins.
Language designed to exclude you, old timer
People younger than you hear things on frequencies that are inaudible to you. Subtleties of context you will never understand, and nor should you. You have enough to deal with.
There is no age where you’re safe. You can be nineteen years old, and the fifteen-year-olds will set up language codes to exclude you, old-timer. All a perfectly normal feature of life since forever.
There would have been older Mesopotamians carving complaints into stone on how the younger folks had no respect for proper Sumerian cuneiforms, which would lead to the decline of civilisation.
Civilisation will be fine. Calm down, words change.
The embarrassment starts when older folk try to be cool, dropping rizz into the chat.
The ultimate Gen-Z deterrent
Lawyer Alana Scheiffers was not convinced by LinkedIn’s hot take. Wisely, rather than rolling it straight out in the workplace, she took advice from her in-house Gen-Z experts:
Dad Rizz. A phrase straight out of an Oppenheimer-style laboratory that’s been working for years on the ultimate Gen Z deterrent. Megaton embarrassment power. Simply terrifying.
Future generations will thank Alana and others like her for standing up here.
Giving weird and uncomfortable
People are posting lists of current hot Gen Z words like “Common L”, “delulu” and “it’s giving”. Helpful if you’re interested in words. But in the grand LinkedIn tradition, they can’t just post stories or information.
They must always tie it up with “learnings” or “the key takeaway” for non-Gen Z readers, and it’s:
“By understanding and using Gen Z slang, you can show this important demographic that you are in tune with their culture and language. This can help you build stronger relationships with Gen Z customers, employees, and friends.”
Nooooo! Do not use it ever.
Understanding is good. That way you have some sense of what’s going on around you, rather than having no clue whatsoever. Respond in your normal language, and they’ll give you some credit for being on their wavelength.
Just don’t say the words back to them or you’ll make everything weird and uncomfortable.
Picture the Tuesday morning finance department meeting:
CFO: (to 24yo finance exec) Olivia, I got that consolidated cash flow forecast you did. It’s giving … ha ha … WeWork! As you might say lol.
25yo Finance Analyst: nods silently, opens Seek on phone
It’s a more benign version of a white Australian, in the US for the first time, hearing African-Americans using the N-word to each other.
Then joining in, in a genuine attempt to be matey.
I only mention this extreme example because I know someone who did exactly that, long ago, in a hotel in Atlanta. That was quite the lesson learned. I know he reads this blog too, hi mate!
Gen Z staff don’t want you to be them
These are the deep holes you can fall into when trying to be cool. And for what? Cool is not going to happen for any of us, and it doesn’t need to. Be your normal best self, and people of all generations will respect that, most of the time.
Gen Z staff don’t want you trying to be them. On average, they want you to be provide a good place to work where they can learn and feel listened to. Rather than spoken at.
You can still join the band, become a performance poet, run for local council or whatever else brings shame upon younger people in your life.
Just understand they are all zero rizz projects.
For so many of us, rizz is over.
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