Seth Godin is one smart dude. He’s one of the world’s most sought-after speakers and marketing gurus, and has, I’m not kidding, his own action figure. I’ve seen it.

Today he missed the boat. Not a big deal; everyone’s entitled to the occasional misstep. But in speaking about being unreasonable on his blog, today Seth Godin sounded like he was saying “go ahead, be a jerk if you have to”.

There’s actually nothing wrong with the idea. From time to time you have to ignore what everyone else thinks and just go with your gut. And to be fair, Seth used some examples that make sense and ring true.

But your words are . . . listened to. And you can bet that Seth Godin’s words are being listened to, passed around, and sworn by.

It’s important to remember the importance of your words, and the language skills you use putting them together.

This isn’t about literally having the sense to censor yourself. The issue is that people assign context to your words, and while it isn’t strictly fair to expect everybody around you to take your context into account before you speak it’s reasonable to hold yourself to that standard. And in business, you must do exactly that.

Many years ago, someone I was close to lost her husband unexpectedly. She had never so much as balanced a checkbook, and turned to me for financial advice based on my once-upon-a-time profession of financial consultant. I was young, and used my language skills carelessly. I told her “you have to get tough, because the bloodsuckers are going to be coming after you”.

She got tough, all right. The good news is that no insurance salesman or scam artist got anywhere near her. The bad news is that at exactly the time she needed them the most she alienated her children. All four of them.

And yes, I realize that I put the words “insurance salesman” right next to the words “scam artist” a moment ago. And no, I don’t think insurances salesmen are scam artists.

Today, Seth Godin is wrong. Don’t be unreasonable, redefine reasonable. Hold yourself to a higher standard than you hold others, Create reason where there might not otherwise be any.

Because that’s what business change is.

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