Advice from Oxford (So it Must Be Erudite, Right?)

Every year, the editors of Oxford Dictionaries pick a “word of the year” that attracted interest during that previous year. Previous winners have included “podcast,” “unfriend,” “selfie,” and even the smiley face emoji. Naturally, language mavens wait all year for the grand reveal. Some of them even stay up late in the most sincere library they can find, hoping the Great Dictionary will rise in the air with a bag full of goodies and toys.


And this year’s winner?


“It’s official: Truth is dead. Facts are passed…


Oxford Dictionaries has selected ‘post-truth’ as 2016’s international word of the year, after the contentious ‘Brexit’ referendum and an equally divisive U.S. presidential election caused usage of the adjective to skyrocket, according to the Oxford University Press.


The dictionary defines ‘post-truth’ as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’


In this case, the ‘post-’ prefix doesn’t mean ‘after’ so much as it implies an atmosphere in which a notion is irrelevant…”


Truth had a good run. First sighted in Europe around the time of the Renaissance, Truth helped guide civilization through the Enlightenment, on to the Industrial Revolution, and into the Atomic Age. But in today’s era of hyper-partisan politics, Truth took ill… and after a long decline, expired sometime earlier this year. (Now that I think about it, has anyone seen Truth’s good friends Art, Love, or Beauty?)


Ok, where does that leave us? I’m going to say the key point in Oxford’s definition is the reference to “appeals to emotion and personal belief.” 


“Truth” is still important for us, even if it’s not important to our politicians. We’re fortunate to work in a business where we can truthfully communicate our value to our clients. “Hey, did you realize the S corporation we set up last year saved you $11,000 in employment taxes?” is a great way to assert your worth, and has the added virtue of being true.


But prospects and clients are swayed by more than just objective truth. They’re swayed by emotion. Ask anyone (who isn’t already a client!) if they pay too much tax, and they’ll probably say yes. That’s an emotional response, whether it’s objectively true or not. And when it comes to paying “too much” tax, is there any such thing as objective truth anyway?


Appeals to personal belief are powerful, too. There’s lots of talk here at TaxCoach about how you close prospects on tax planning when they anticipate Washington dropping rates next fall. And it’s true that lower rates may make paying taxes less painful for some prospects. So appeal instead to their personal beliefs.


To a Trump voter, who sees a potential windfall: “It’s true that the new administration will probably drop rates. But that doesn’t let you off the hook for planning. Washington is dropping rates for a reason – they want you to have that money so you can spend it or invest it to grow the economy. If you don’t work to take advantage of every opportunity the new law offers, you’re not doing your part!”


To a Clinton voter (or Johnson voter, or Stein voter, or McMullen voter) who sees disaster: “It’s true that the new administration will probably drop rates. And yes, that may blow another hole in the deficit. But overpaying your taxes won’t fix that problem. It’ll just give Trump and his allies more money to spend growing the military (or whatever other priority your prospect fears.)”


By all means, fight the good fight to keep Truth alive. But don’t forget how important appeals to Emotion can be!