Slickness….in praise of it?

Dark Glasses, dark birdSometime ago, I happened to end up at a group event, which regularly takes place at a hotel in Karachi and at various times occurs in (maybe) 200 other cities of the world. These people worship the art of slickness and they come together to train and improve their method of delivery of words. They belong to a club spread worldwide, which I shall not name here, dedicated to improving and standardizing our speaking skills.

Their objectives were fairly easy to grasp. One of our biggest fears, is being able to speak up in public. Faced with an audience most of us descend into jelly feet. So, this club coaches a standard method of delivery and trains participants, so that they can express themselves, especially in a pressure environment. This management of speech will by its very practice transcend into daily lives, work and otherwise, and the subjects shall be able to command respect by being confident, articulate, delivering great presentations and talks. The more confident and articulate you become, the better the imagery. Soon you will progress in life. In praise of slickness!!!

To be fair, I was welcomed with open arms at this august gathering. There were some veterans who had been attending for years.  However, as the evening progressed, I found myself more and more uncomfortable and out of sorts with these ladies and gentlemen, even though they were very courteous and treated me with utmost care and respect – they probably saw a new corporate member, who could perhaps further their club objectives.

The problem was that I belong to a totally different ilk and therefore should have been the last person to enter that room. My filters are way on the other side of the room. True, in my personal experience, I have come across many managers who articulate arguments brilliantly and are able to influence people. But now, I stick my neck out to go further…. the fact is, I have discovered through most of my career, that the people who articulate well, are generally the best showmen/women and therefore they tend to speak with a forked tongue. Also they tend to take the least responsibility and mostly are articulate individuals and not team players. Therein lies the problem.

Now you would say, what a horrible generalization…but within the confines of the Bell Curve, this is true. That 70% under normal distribution are just such people. Spare a thought, for the thousands of hours I (and people like me) have sat and listened to beautiful articulation, great presentations and known that the whole presentation is a put on job. Worse still, most people will nod and smile and go out of the room, forgetting the substance of the presentation. So all that will remain is the imagery and the delivery of promises made will be forgotten, not to ever occur at all. In a few years this individual will have progressed to great positions, thanks to his/her articulation skills. Such a travesty!

So, once I reached a position of reasonable influence, I promised myself never will I let such people influence me. Therefore, when a candidate walks in for an interview, what to look for? Look for the reality within the person. Is he/she artificial, the false smiles and the lack of pauses (the ‘umms’ and the ‘ahhhs’). They tell the reality! Beware,  anyone who answers smoothly and without thought pauses. Next you look for truth, passion and backbone. These are all the things, that slickness does not inculcate, but actually make a human a great manager – someone who will say less, deliver more and when the chips are down, will stand up and be counted.

In case you all think this is too judgmental…

Sahih Bukhari and Muslim report that Anas said ‘The Prophet’s (saw) talk was precise clear, and succinct without undue elaboration’

Sahih Bukhari Volume 003, Book 041, Hadith Number 591 and

Sahih Bukhari Volume 002, Book 024, Hadith Number 555

Narrated By Al-Mughira bin Shu’ba : The Prophet (saw) said, ” …. and Allah has hated for you (1) vain, useless talk, or that you talk too much about others, (2) to ask too many questions….

I rest my case!!

* The picture is taken from a free picture site. The owner is “Psyberartist”.

About sarfarazar
I have been lucky! A long career with large scale organisations and some acclaim. Also, took time off to write, mentor and do some education and social development projects. I continue to mentor and help younger people in life. Inshallah, hope to write on various subjects in my blog.

27 Responses to Slickness….in praise of it?

  1. Rahul rai says:

    Thoughts really appreciated Sir 🙂

  2. Saira says:

    This got me thinking! Good communication skills are all about empathy and sincerity, hand in hand. So one without the other becomes slickness?

    • sarfarazar says:

      I think empathy without sincerity cannot exist. How can one put oneself in anothers shoes and do so without feeling genuinely for the other person. But it is also more than that. Sometimes people judge what a boss or a board wants. Then they put up a facade to seem in line. Akin to munafiqat…to me that is plain simple dishonesty.
      Thanks for your note.

  3. Afra Sajjad says:

    Loved it…So true!

    Sent from my iPad

  4. Zainab says:

    Wow! This is so spot on Sarfaraz… It is like saying the people are being groomed / paid / rewarded for saying what the other wants to hear… Whether true or false…and punished for standing up and speaking what is right…or without elaboration

  5. Syed Waqas Bukhari says:

    Very well deciphered Sarfaz sahib……Thank you for sharing these words of wisdom/experience.

  6. Akram Durrani says:

    I concur that the the people who articulate well, are not genuine and they master the art of saying what the others want to hear. I know of individuals in seemingly high positions who survive and continue to progress by their slickness. They spend the entire day “polishing” their emails and presentation to make the “impact” while taking no interest in the outcomes of the real situation.

    On the other hand people with a conscious, are found working hard to deliver results but remain in the background struggling to survive.

  7. Faisal says:

    So true.

  8. Imran Jamil says:

    Keeping in view all the buzz pertaining to communication skills, I was bit confused as I was going through but the end lines and references, changed it all. Really a smart perspective, especially when engaging people for your team. Thanks for sharing.

    • sarfarazar says:

      Thank you for the comment and for keeping an open mind about these thoughts. Your comment made my day, because the only reason I am writing these notes is to pass on my undiluted thoughts to others…thus fulfilling my own perception of responsibility.

  9. Another masterpiece from Sarfaraz Sahib,thought provoking & interesting,enjoyed every word of this article

  10. AdMan says:

    A reality check of how wrong we can be in judging people. Thanks for sharing your experience Sarfaraz Sb.

  11. Sana M says:

    not everyone thinks like you. slickness is what impresses the bosses and gets one to higher ranks. i need to master this art 😉

  12. Umer Khan says:

    Totally agree with the views. I myself have never been interested in such events as there are no means of measuring the impact, if any, of the content on the audience.

    One thing that i would appreciate is that if you could write something on a topic that you touched in this article i.e. Interviewing a candidate. Additionally, during an interview, if you ask someone a question, “Why Should We Hire You?”, what sort of an answer would you be looking forward to?


  13. Syed Mustafa says:

    Great insights which only a person having spent significant amount of time in the professional word can have; however, people like us who are still trying to find their way up the corporate ladder would perhaps still need such clubs in order to fulfil our worldly ambitions, unless of course we are lucky enough to find an interviewer or a manager like you 🙂

  14. yamnahassan says:

    But there’s no harm in adjusting to the demands of your job, superiors (or seniors). Afterall, all of us would prefer an eloquent and expressive speaker at the end of the day over a dry and jittery one. I guess, putting up this facade becomes inevitable when one has to engage the audience or meet the requirements of a particular job. And that’s what progression is, don’t you think? Well, that’s my opinion… and I am too inexperienced to question your point of views. May be I am of this opinion because I have been constantly prompted to acknowledge the importance and power of cosmetic layering in a speech to engage someone, at work (yeah, I work for sales), or during university life…

    Sadly, that’s taking us towards a more artificial world and I think it’s largely because of this reason that Allah and our prophet (p.b.u.h) detest it so much.

    I love the variation in your posts 🙂

    • sarfarazar says:

      I generally write impromptu and so there will be the mood of the moment. But you will find a similar streak in my non–sports writing. Thank you for your comment.

  15. Fabhaa Alee says:

    Sir! I have a feeling with your experience you already knew what sort of gathering it was even before you went in there… What you didn’t suggest is the cure to this sickness! Why can’t such people be confronted head on why do we have to bear with their (Excuse me for saying this) BULL SHIT! just cause they have been lucky enough to reach a certain position by virtue of being at a place in the right time and at the exact moment.

    • sarfarazar says:

      My dear Fabhaa, i would expect you to say nothing else 🙂 Straight and direct. Not all of us have this courage etc…our cultural upbringing creates ‘murawwat’ and it is very difficult to battle through that. Many a times on could say things directly, when one simply passes on without registering this. My protest was simple. I never returned to place again, despite several invitations. And writing this piece. So probably they know what I think.

      As for knowing what might be the case before entering, well you are allowing me clairvoyant powers which I do not have. If I suspected afore, it still allowed me to to learn another aspect of humanity.

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