I Don’t Speak Jargon Well

I had a great meeting today with a colleague. We met at a Starbucks that was situated half way between where he was off to next and where I was off to next. We were referred to each other by a connection who thought it made sense for us to meet.

“Tell me what you do.” I suggested. “I’ve been to your web site, and I have an understanding of your firm, but help me understand your role a little better.”

After mentioning something about ‘value added,’ and ‘passion’ in air-quotes, we both laughed. I told my new pal that he was only allowed three jargon buzz words and after that ——- well, I wasn’t sure, but three seemed to be all either of us wanted to admit to using.

Since we both deal in communication skills training and modeling, it made sense to try and behave accordingly. If we can’t figure out what each other really does, it’s unlikely we’ll be helping each other much.

It’s hard to know if its technology or all the Gen-Xer and Gen-Y’s in the workplace (although we were sitting across from each other and both Baby Boomers) but too much jargon in communication is simply weak communication. I don’t know what all the terms mean, but when other use them with such ease – I feel as if I should.

I asked a few people if they knew what the term ‘social enterprise’ was because the person who used the term assured me that everyone else did. Yet I couldn’t find anyone who knew the term. I am not sure what a ‘resilient organization’ is but I’m betting people want to work in one. ‘High performance’ is probably better than regular performance. Things need to be ‘fully integrated’ but I’m unclear about what we are integrating with what. Another firm promotes their ‘real time functionality’ which I guess means that whatever they sell – it works when you want to use it.

Dilbert is alive and well and everywhere!! Simple and clear phrases are almost comically unprofessional. Jargon sure makes you sound important. And it’s everywhere.

But if you are speaking to have your audience understand you and your message, why use words that confuse them? Simple works. But if you don’t have clarity about what you do, the service you provide or the product you sell, you can muddy the word with jargon and overused overly complicated phrases that keep your customers and colleagues in the dark as well.

Speaking and writing clearly and concisely are skills that can be learned. Communicating something that is complex in simple and direct language is incredibly helpful. It translates the mysterious into the accessible.

Most of us learned that we could ‘dress up’ an essay question in school by throwing in a lot of information that wasn’t relevant. Few teachers were fooled, however, but a flimsy excuse for not knowing the answer to the question.

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