Are your words falling on deaf ears?
Every industry and most groups, teams and organizations have special language that they use to communicate with each other. The special language, acronyms and jargon is useful in streamlining communication and in creating a sense of belonging among members – think of it like a secret handshake. All the members of a the tribe understand the special usage. They even use their understanding and skillful use of jargon as a tool for distinguishing themselves among other members. Jargon can also be used to exclude people from conversations – sort of like using a secret code that outsiders don’t really understand.
The challenge for leaders is to use language intentionally and inclusively. Language can be used intentionally to create rapport and create community. The unintentional overuse of jargon can create distance and mistrust.
Here are some tips for using jargon more effectively:
1. Know the jargon that is being used in your industry, group or community. For example, coaches use words like change, transformation, destiny, inspiration, goals, passion, purpose and results. Inner city youth might use expletives in creative, non-traditional ways as a noun, a verb, an adjective and a bunch of other parts of speech. Catholics use language that only other Catholics use (and understand) regularly like genuflect, communion, altar, tabernacle, vestments, etc. Everyone has some special language: Bloggers, Athletes, Website Designers, Coaches, Entrepreneurs, Chefs, Educators, Administrators, Doctors, Book Club members, Family members, Alumni, etc. Know what yours is!
2. Use jargon inclusively with other members of your group and stretch yourself to use language more intentionally both inside and outside of your group.
3. Pay attention to the impact of the language you’re using. If people’s eyes are glazing over or they are staring off into space, they might not be understanding you. Some words and phrases are so overused that they don’t even mean anything significant any more. What are the words and phrases that you are using that don’t have any real defined meaning? Simplify your language, use less jargon and start connecting with people on a more profound level.
4. Know the jargon of your clients, customers and other people you would like to influence. Using their language can help create rapport and influence. And, it can backfire on you, too. Only use words and phrases that you can use authentically – that fit your personality and your relationship to the individual or group you want to influence. Some words and phrases are for insiders only. Teenagers can call each other “Dude” and an assortment of other less printable names, but their parents and teachers probably don’t have a lot of leverage with them for use of these words. However, parents and teachers probably do want to be able to use a word like “text” as a noun, verb, adjective, etc. And, they will want to have a working understanding of the distinctions between “going out, hanging out, chilling out and passing out.”
5. When in doubt, leave it out! If you aren’t sure how to use a word or phrase, then don’t.
6. Do not assume that everyone knows what you mean. If you aren’t positive that the people listening to you understand how you are using words in context, simplify. Use more words or less words – paying attention to who is listening and how they are understanding you.