We’ve all been there. It was 9am on a Monday morning. The project team had gathered in a small meeting room to share thoughts on the week ahead. Several cups of coffee were dotted around the desk.
“We need the Exec to take a helicopter view before we can cascade relevant information.”
Here we go.
“Frank, I need you to speak to customer services and do a deep dive on CRM. I also need you to see if we have enough bandwidth to crosslink our functionality.”
Slumped in my chair, I stared at the cups of coffee and instantly regretted my decision to pass.
In defence of my former colleagues, every industry has its own language. To the initiated, it feels natural. Almost comforting. It is, in effect, a secret handshake.
We all like to feel empowered. And insider language, characterised by jargon, acronyms and clichés, does just that. It empowers us by making us think we sound authoritative. ‘He just used an acronym I’ve never heard of, he must know what he’s talking about.’
But, by its very nature, insider language is exclusive. To the uninitiated, it makes no sense. Within industries, different companies and even individual business departments can cut themselves off by becoming over reliant on jargon and acronyms that are essentially meaningless.
Going back to that Monday morning meeting, what I wasn’t prepared for was what happened next.
“Oh come on, cut the crap.”
All of a sudden, I didn’t need coffee.
“If we can’t even speak to each other properly, how can we expect our customers to understand us?”
Finally. Someone said it. I wish it had been me who saved that meeting. Or any of the 20 that preceded it. But it wasn’t. So, I’m writing this to make up for it.
Insider language may feel empowering, but it switches people off. Even worse, it can stifle critical thinking and do long-term harm to a business.
As someone who communicates for a living, I accept the possibility that I am overly sensitive to this issue. After all, it’s far more efficient to use acronyms instead of actual words.
But. And it’s a big but. Using plain English is not only more inclusive, it helps you to develop your thoughts. By forcing yourself to speak in terms that everybody understands, it soon becomes clear if you’re making sense.
Every business on the planet needs to be able to communicate with people outside of the company. Speaking in plain English, and encouraging colleagues to do the same, helps everyone to be more effective.
And you can do the planet a favour by significantly reducing the demand for Monday morning coffee.