Cutting out jargon terms from everyday language will help you collaborate and engage with peers across your organization
Getting your point across succinctly is an important skill for both emerging and established leaders, but it can be a particularly tricky skill to master for those in IT. Because of the technical nature of the field we often use vague terms and language in an attempt to explain something to non-technical individuals, or simply to make a point. While those in IT might know enough about the underlying technology to make sense of all the jargon, it’s often lost on everyone else.
Another reason these terms sneak into our everyday vocabulary, especially as we grow into leadership positions, is the pressure to “sound smart.” In reality, using a lot of vague terms is simply a way to lose the attention of your audience. Making a clear business case without using jargon terms is the fastest way to collaborate with other leaders.
Say what you mean
In an article for the Financial Post, Dr. Sandra Folk, president of the Language Lab, writes “in business English, jargon can be annoying because it overcomplicates. It’s frequently silly, unnecessary, and it can make a simple idea or instruction baffling.”
Folk writes that good mangers understand that communicating ideas in plain English is the best way to be understood. “They seek clarity of communication at all times,” she says.
It doesn’t matter if your audience is a group of veteran business leaders either. When using jargon, you always run the risk of miscommunicating. Even Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, wrote a post on LinkedIn calling for an end to business jargon, in which he states:
“Personally, I find [jargon] simply slows things down, confuses people and causes them to lose interest.”
Branson also admits that he has been confused by jargon before and much prefers when business terms are explained in direct, clear English.
How do get rid of jargon
We often use jargon terms when we want to convey something highly specific in a way that’s easily relatable. That’s why jargon frequently develops in small teams in fields like IT and financial services, where team members use short phrases or terms to describe something technical.
If you’re a serious jargon offender, according to Becky Gaylord, a consultant and former reporter, the first step towards ditching the habit is learning to spot the terms. She writes in PR Daily that jargon terms are often nouns acting like verbs — terms like “ideate,” “incentivize,” and “calendarize.” She suggests instead of using terms like those, use a few words to describe what you want. For example, to get rid of incentivize you might substitute: give rewards to staff for meeting goals.
It’s also important to know your audience, especially when working with individuals outside your immediate team. For example, IT often reports to a company’s financial controller or CFO. That individual may have incredible business knowledge but probably lacks specific technical understanding of complex IT systems. It’s important in cases like these to communicate clearly and accurately. This post from the Marketwired blog includes some great tips on how to do just that, but the most important might be “simplify without dumbing down.” Depending on your audience, they recommend using a brief description or explanation of what you’re trying to convey instead of using technical terms.
Cutting out jargon terms from everyday language will not only help your ability to collaborate and engage with peers across your organization, it should also have a positive impact on your career as you develop positive communication skills.
Are you or a co-worker a repeat jargon offender? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Barry Clavir is the Co-founder and Managing Partner of Leaders Beyond. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.