A snow job is an attempt to deceive, overwhelm, or persuade someone with misleading information or flattery. The term originated in the 1940s and implies covering up or glossing over faults, problems, or objections with an avalanche of data, facts, figures, or promises. It is essentially an effort to “snow” someone and obscure the truth.
What does snow job mean?
The phrase “snow job” refers to using an overwhelming amount of information, jargon, or persuasion to confuse a person and make them believe something that may not be true. It is meant to so inundate the person with data that they cannot discern what is fact and what is fiction. It essentially buries the truth under a mountain of elaborate verbiage or convincing half-truths.
A snow job often relies on complex terminology or intricate explanations to make someone feel too overwhelmed or confused to question the premise. It can involve flattery, appeal to authority, appeal to emotion, or other rhetorical tactics to get someone to agree without critically analyzing the argument.
The image evoked is of someone being so covered with snow that they cannot see clearly or find their way. Similarly, someone subjected to a snow job is blinded from the truth by an avalanche of misleading information. The goal is to gain compliance or agreement by essentially snowing someone under with sophistry.
What are some examples of snow job tactics?
Some common examples of snow job tactics include:
- Overwhelming with statistics: Providing an abundance of numbers, percentages, figures to make an argument seem well-supported.
- Using complex jargon: Relying on intricate industry terminology to make something sound technical and impressive.
- Name dropping: Referencing big names, prestigious organizations, or famous authority figures to impress.
- Flattering: Giving effusive compliments and praise to get someone’s agreement.
- Fast talking: Speaking very quickly and persistently to dominate the conversation.
- Deflecting objections: Quickly moving past any counterarguments or ignoring concerns.
- Promising the moon: Making exaggerated claims or unrealistic promises to persuade.
- Hiding flaws: Omitting or glossing over problems, defects, or disadvantages.
- Tangents and word salad: Going off on long, elaborate, but ultimately meaningless tangents.
The unifying thread is using an avalanche of words to obscure, deflect, distract, or mislead – essentially snow someone under so they cannot see the flaws in the premise.
What are the purposes of a snow job?
There are several potential purposes or goals of employing a snow job tactic:
- Persuade or influence: Snowing someone with complex explanations or flattery gets them to agree or comply with a request.
- Save face: Burying flaws or objections with irrelevant data deflects tough questions and criticism.
- Silence critics: Overwhelming or fast-talking may fluster or tire out challengers.
- Feign expertise: Jargon and technical details can give the impression of authority on a subject.
- Buy time: Lengthy diversions distract from the main issue at hand.
- Confuse issues: Flooding with information muddies the key facts.
- Take advantage: Big promises can manipulate someone into making a poor decision.
- Defraud or cheat: Complete fabrications can trick someone for profit.
Essentially, a snow job allows someone to control a narrative by burying the truth under an avalanche of hyperbole, semantics, or manufactured data. It enables manipulating someone’s opinion or getting them to overlook important deficiencies for the snow jobber’s gain.
When is the snow job approach effective?
Snow jobs can be effective in these situations:
- Fast-paced environments: When decisions happen quickly, flooding with data can inhibit careful analysis.
- Uninformed audiences: Those unfamiliar with a topic are more easily overwhelmed with technical language and details.
- Data deluge: The sheer amount of information today makes it hard to discern truth from misdirection.
- Power imbalances: Snow jobs exploit deference to authority figures or flattery of superiors.
- Fatigue: Persistent, fast-talking snow jobs can wear down resistance and critical thinking.
- No fact-checking: If claims cannot be easily verified, false promises or statistics go unchallenged.
- Emotional manipulation: Appealing to fear, greed, vanity makes one vulnerable to snow jobs.
In essence, snow jobs capitalize on speed, ignorance, overload, bias, exhaustion, lack of transparency, and visceral emotions. Any high-pressure situation where critical analysis is impeded creates an opportunity for snow jobbers.
What are the downsides of attempting a snow job?
Risks and downsides to snow job tactics include:
- Discovery: Snow jobs often fail once scrutinized and can destroy credibility.
- Wasted resources: Time spent on elaborate snow jobs could be used developing sound arguments.
- Short-term gains: Any agreement or deal gained via snow jobs may be superficial and temporary.
- Resentment: People dislike beingmanipulated and may seek vengeance.
- Cynicism: Overuse of snow jobs breeds distrust, skepticism and hurts persuasion.
- Wrong decisions: Snowed audiences may make poor calls that hurt them and the snow jobber.
- No improvement: Snow jobs obscure flaws rather than fixing them, inhibiting growth.
- Ethical issues: Snow jobs indicate dishonesty, condescension, and bad faith.
In short, snow job tactics can backfire spectacularly in the long run by ruining reputations, relationships, and bottom lines. Savvy audiences increasingly see through the flimflam as well.
How can you avoid falling for a snow job?
Tips for avoiding snow jobs:
- Ask probing questions to get to core facts.
- Don’t let jargon or credentials bedazzle – check understanding.
- Watch for vague claims, exaggerated promises, and logical fallacies.
- Note use of flattery, urgency, fear – emotional manipulation cues.
- Research credentials, statistics, data independently.
- Slow the pace – ask for written information to review carefully.
- Trust intuition if something feels off or too slick.
- Focus the conversation back to specifics if sidetracked.
- Ask directly how the proposal benefits audience versus snow jobber.
Staying ruthlessly focused on verifiable facts, data sources, logical reasoning and precise language helps avoid being snowed. Relying on emotional appeals should raise red flags. Inviting scrutiny from others also helps reveal snow jobs.
How can you avoid using snow job tactics unethically?
To avoid unethical snow jobs:
- Provide full transparency on limitations, flaws, and risks.
- Use clear, simple language appropriate to the audience.
- Invite scrutiny – don’t deflect tough questions.
- Cite justifiable data sources and credentials.
- Focus on how the proposal benefits the audience, not just you.
- Avoid flattery, vagueness, emotional manipulation.
- Be willing to say “I don’t know” rather than faking expertise.
- Embrace critiques as opportunities to improve the premise.
- Make logical, rational arguments focused on facts.
An ethical persuader relies on logic, data, good faith argumentation and transparency. A snow jobber leans on obfuscation, emotional manipulation, misdirection and superficial persuasion. The latter erodes trust and harms relationships in the long run.
A “snow job” uses an avalanche of misleading information, flattery, and sophistry to gain superficial agreement or compliance without earning true acceptance of the premise. While sometimes effective in the short-term, particularly on the uninformed or overwhelmed, it represents an unethical, bad faith style of persuasion. Savvy audiences increasingly recognize and reject snow job tactics. A skilled persuader avoids resorting to snow jobs and instead focuses on clear, rational and transparent communication to build trust and understanding. Rather than burying the truth under rhetorical tricks, they illuminate it with integrity.