Here Comes The Jargon Police

PLEASE NOTE

In order to make the most out of reading this post,  you’ll want to download and print it.

Why? I’ve included a fun exercise for you, so you’ll want to write down your answers.

Sometimes, I take on the role of a Jargon Police Officer. In this formidable position, I monitor my client’s and workshop participant’s use of jargon. Jargon includes all of the special words or expressions that are unique to a business, profession, or group and are difficult for others to understand. Jargon is “technical talk”.

I am especially on guard when my marketing workshop participants use jargon:

  • On their website
  • On printed promotional or educational literature
  • When they give an elevator speech to a potential customer or referrer

When you use jargon, there is a chance that the person listening to you will not understand what you are saying. And chances are, that person is too polite to ask you, “What are you talking about?” This is not a good way to make a first, second or third impression.

However, there might be times when you want to use jargon. Whether you’re talking ‘shop’ with a colleague or giving a presentation to your peers, using jargon and technical terms makes sense. But, it’s still best to keep the use of jargon to a minimum, no matter what type of situation you’re in.

At a local networking event, I overheard (eavesdropped) a conversation between a psychotherapist and a lawyer. It seemed that the lawyer might have clients with emotional or relationship problems. Perfect match? Not quite. The therapist said to the lawyer, “I provide a solution-focused approach in counseling and therapy, drawing from a variety of tools such as hypnosis, NLP, EFT and EMDR”. The lawyer looked perplexed. He probably said to himself, “What the hell is this person talking about?” The jargon police would have had a field day with this therapist. I restrained myself and walked away.

jargon visual

Here’s the problem with jargon. We’ll use the psychotherapist talking to the lawyer as an example. As soon as the psychotherapist blurted out “…hypnosis, NLP, EFT, and EMDR”, the conversation shifted from talking about the needs of the lawyer…which turned the conversation into didactic teaching mode (the therapist would explain each of these therapeutic techniques), resulting in making the ‘conversation’ all about the therapist. This is not good.

When building a business relationship, it’s not all about you; it’s about making a connection with your customer by focusing on their needs. This therapist was too busy explaining what therapeutic methods she used and never made a personal connection with the lawyer.

As you move deeper into a conversation, and when the other person asks more probing questions, the chances of slipping into jargon mode are much greater.

Time to Test Your Use of Jargon

Here’s a chance to eliminate jargon from your vocabulary when talking to prospective or current customers.

Example of Jargon Used by a Management Consultant

 Read the example below of how to substitute common words or phrases for jargon. This example shows how easy it is to eliminate jargon from a management consultant’s vocabulary.

Here are 5 jargon words or phrases unique to a management consultant’s industry or business. Substitute a non-technical, common word or phrase for each jargon word or phrase from the left column.
Brand equityName recognition that might result in increased sales
Out of the boxCreative thinking
Above boardTo be honest and open
Scope creepA project that expands beyond it’s original goal
Pain pointA critical consumer need

 

Your Jargon Buster Exercise

List 5 jargon words or phrases unique to your business or industryTake each word or phrase from the left column and substitute a non-technical, common word or phase
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5.

 

What You Learned

List three things you learned from the Jargon Buster Exercise:

  1. _______________________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________________

Three Key Points To Know About Using Jargon

  1. There is a time and place to use jargon. When you’re talking ‘shop’ with a colleague or giving a presentation to your peers, using jargon and technical terms makes sense.
  2. A potential customer can’t get to know you if you’re conversation is riddled with jargon.
  3. Check your website, promotional literature for jargon and change the jargon to common words or phrases.