Communicating in a clear and concise fashion is challenging. Add to the equation business jargon and buzzwords, and things get even more complex. We are all guilty of using jargon in our everyday business communication. Phrases like “paradigm shift”, “put a pin in it”, “raise the bar”, “circle back” and “at the end of the day,” have been so engrained in our workplace conversations that we don’t hear them. The danger of such ambiguous language is that these expressions can mean very different things to different people.
The most effective leaders and communicators use simple, clear, and precise language to get their message across, so you have little doubt what they really mean. The issue of jargon gets even worse in specialized areas of work, such as with lawyers, doctors, and accountants, while the rest of us are confused and frustrated.
If you are guilty of communicating through jargon more than you know you should, consider these suggestions:
- Think about your audience. Ask yourself what you would want to hear if you were on the receiving end of your communication. One of the golden rules in communication is to be “others-centered,” meaning, if the people in the audience weren’t sitting beside you in law school, medical school, or in that finance class, then assume they don’t know what you are talking about. Use simple and specific language that is universally understood to ensure that the message you are sending is the one being received. Speak for the other person and not yourself.
- Avoid acronyms. We all use acronyms as a shortcut in our communication. We use acronyms in our meetings, in sales pitches, and even in our written communication. These abbreviations are often the cause of miscommunication, as the receiver may not ask for clarification if they are unsure of what you are saying. Therefore, if you do use an acronym, briefly explain what it means. If not, your audience is left to figure it out while you are on to a different point.
- Find a shorter way to say things. We all use too many words, which can become jargon filled. Therefore, instead of saying, “Your actions are an inappropriate response, which only cause me to feel I have to respond in kind.” Try saying, “That’s really bothering me. Can you stop it.” Be deliberate and concise in the words you use to avoid miscommunication.
- Change your way of thinking. Most of us were introduced to jargon long before we even entered the workforce, therefore, it has become engrained in our minds and part of our everyday communication. Get out of your head the idea that jargon makes you sound smart or business savvy. It doesn’t. It creates communication barriers and obstacles and hurts your ability to build relationships and close deals.
- Lead by example. As a leader or manager in your organization, it is essential that you not only insist that your team use clear, unambiguous language, but that you model it yourself. Employees want to fit into an office culture, so will mimic the actions of others to show they are part of the team. Therefore, as the leader of your team, be deliberate with the words you use, and others will follow.
- Use stories and examples. Don’t say something like, “I leveraged our sales team to help us on the Jones project.” Try saying, “I worked together with Bob on the Jones project to increase our revenue by 10%.” Clearly and simply outlining and defining the impact and results of a particular action is much more effective and useful then using unnecessary jargon.