I remember watching one of Derren Brown’s TV shows a while back, in which he submitted a group of people to an in-depth personality test. After the test was complete, Derren handed each person their individual profile in a sealed envelope, and asked them to check it for accuracy.
Most people in the group agreed that their profile was outstandingly precise, explaining their unique personality in amazing depth.
Derren then told them to swap profiles with someone else. It turned out that everybody in the group had been given exactly the same one.
Vague, contradictory statements such as, “at times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved” had helped everybody find something that applied to them personally.
(This is an example of the ‘Barnum Effect’, named after the Greatest Showman himself, in which people believe that a vague personality statement is an accurate depiction of themselves. Astrologers, fortune-tellers and graphologists are particular masters of it).
As the new year began, I received a rash of requests for profile writing; some for LinkedIn, some for online dating websites, and some for ‘About Me’ web pages.
It was during my research of different profiles that Derren Brown’s TV show sprang back into my mind. This is because a great deal of profiles are written in such vague language that they could apply to almost anyone, often using the same clichéd phrases over and over again.
To prove my point, here’s my personally curated collection of ‘most used’ profile phrases.
“I love cuddling up on the sofa with a bottle of wine and a good film”
(What wine, what film?)
“I love going out, but I’m just as happy staying in”
(You’re a ditherer)
“I don’t know what to write on these things”
(Then why should I bother reading it?)
“I’m really laid-back and easy going”
(Usually written by people who are anything but)
“Helping clients win”
(First prize in the sack race?)
“Enabler of success”
“Keeping my options open”
(Good for you. Next.)
“I work well on my own and in a team”
(No, you don’t)
“I’m a dynamic individual who thrives in a fast-paced environment”
‘About Me’ pages
“My family are very important to me”
(That’s great, but how are you actually going to help your clients?)
“I enjoy thinking outside the box and being creative”
(And using tired clichés)
“In my spare time, I love hanging out with friends and family, or going to the gym”
Did you spot any of these well-worn words in your profile statements?
If so, swap them now – for something that really tells people about you.
Clarity, combined with sparkling nuggets of memorable detail, are the secret ingredients of an interesting profile. They are what will stand you out in that bland sea of easy-going enablers of success who love their families very much.
If you’re having trouble coming up with the right words, just take one of our clichés and dig a little bit deeper. You could start by asking yourself the questions you might ask someone else: What do you love about being in a relationship? What really lights you up about your job? Why did you start your business?
You’ll know when you’re onto something interesting. The right words will fuel a fizzy spark of energy that’ll make you want to get them all down on the page immediately.
At the risk of repeating another hackneyed phrase, don’t be afraid to share your uniqueness with the world. Some people won’t like it, but some will, and they’re the ones you want.
Who cares about the rest?