FUD: Coming Back into Style

A few days ago, I heard an interview with a software developer, and he used the word “FUD” (rhymes with Dud),  short for “Fear, uncertainty and doubt.” He continued, “It’s what people use to persuade you that they are right, you know, to scare you into believing what they want to do is best.”

Print paper, marbled with ink. Pitt pen, watercolor pencil.

Print paper, marbled with ink. Pitt pen, watercolor pencil.

The word has been around since the 1920s, but it was popularized by Gene Amdalh when he left IBM to start his own company. Amdahl said that IBM sales staff would use FUD to encourage employees to stay with IBM products instead of risking something new.

What a word. It’s perfect for today’s way of thinking.  It looms large in politics and religion, but we use FUD in almost every conversation when we want to persuade people do listen to us.

A few days ago, I noted on Facebook that my car had been broken into. No damage, and the only things taken were a USB cord originally plugged into the phone charger for the car.  A box of Kleenex, a tried up container of hand wipes, and a half empty bottle of Armor-All were taken. In a nod to irony, my mother’s quilt, finally retrieved, was untouched..

Someone left me the comment that the thief could have taken my garage door opener, checked my registration for my address and was now coming after me. She suggested I “watch out.”  FUD. What possible use could that remark be? She didn’t ask, but I was over 32 miles from home that day. Most thieves prefer to do their work without a lot of driving. I had taken the garage door opener with me, as I don’t leave anything plastic in the car in the summer.

Thanks to contributor Pete for this graphic

Thanks to contributor Pete for this graphic

FUD. Easy to believe, because an easy solution offered by someone else offers a faster solution than trusting our own logic, intuition and experience. Taking risks and measuring progress and defining success seems so much harder. And it is. But FUD works only if we let it work, and almost never if we begin to ask careful questions whose answers will open the map and point us in the right direction.

Quinn McDonald will mud-wrestle fear before she uses it as a reason for decision making.