Jargon Exclusion Helps With Inclusion


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Duolingo Got Me Thinking

Alongside many millions of people around the world, I’m currently doing Spanish on Duolingo. I take in my daily dose and learn a little every day. It’s a part of my routine.

But that has nothing to do with this blog, other than I was reading a blog on Duolingo about jargon in the workplace. You can read that article here if you wish.

It got me to thinking about the use of jargon across the board. What I mean by across the board is, in life, in business, across nationalities and cultures.

One of the points in the Duolingo article is that many words and phrases from business English have been subsumed into other languages. According to the article, 60% of people say they have to figure out the jargon themselves, all on their own. This can lead to a massive potential for miscommunication.

Avoiding Jargon

Avoiding jargon is something that I frequently highlight when I’m speaking and training on networking. And yet, I read some of the phrases that are used in the article above and I didn’t understand them myself.

Apparently in Australia the phrases ‘wheelhouse, noodling, boiling the ocean, juice worth the squeeze’ are common. I can tell you as a native English speaker, I have no idea what they are referring to, so I’d have to ask.

Mind you, my other half is from Belfast; a mere hour and a half or so away from where I grew up and he often comes out with expressions I’ve never heard of and I have to ask him what he means!

These days I don’t mind asking people to clarify phrases and words if I’m not sure …but once upon a time, I wouldn’t have said a thing, thinking it was just me and I wouldn’t have opened my mouth.

A phrase that my Dad used to say to me was ‘better to ask and be thought a fool, than not to ask and be a fool’.  I stand by this motto.

Why Do We Use Jargon

Let’s look firstly at why we use jargon.

The why can relate to some or all of the following:

  • Project authority
  • Convey sophistication
  • Showcase being in touch with latest trends
  • Seem smart and outrun imposter complexes
  • Show business savvy

How Does Jargon Make People Feel?

Now let’s look at how jargon makes people feel:

  • Uninformed & out of the loop (see what I did there?)
  • Stressed
  • Slows down productivity
  • Creates a barrier to understanding
  • Increases miscommunications
  • Heightens a sense of imposter complex and simply feeling embarrassed or ‘stupid’
  • Creates exclusion in the conversation and not inclusion

My Thoughts About Jargon

Here are my observations:

We don’t even realise, well at least, I take for granted certain phrases, not considering them jargon, e.g. words such as feedback, networking, out of the box thinking, blue ocean thinking, FYI (for your information).

The corporate speak in countries from Japan to India to Brazil and lots of countries in between revealed a lot of English words inserted into Portuguese, Japanese, Vietnamese etc.

The fact that this English jargon and phraseology is used in other languages doesn’t mean it’s understood universally. At the very least a speaker or writer should explain the meanings and ask if everyone understands.  Assumptions should be avoided.

Better still avoid the jargon!

On Acronyms

If there are acronyms that crop up, make sure that any content is explained in full at the outset, e.g in written form – email, blog, proposals etc.

For example, Key Performance Indicator (KPI) and then the person knows what KPI stands for as they continue reading the document.  In business speak we hear a tremendous number of acronyms, e.g. your USP, or your unique selling proposition.  Never assume that your audience understand them.

Jargon in Business Content

And by business content, I mean brochures, websites, social media – written content and then verbal content such as pitches, proposals, elevator or 6o second pitches…the amount of jargon used can be staggering. Particularly for hard to understand areas such as finance and IT, for those that does specialise in those areas.

Eliminate all the technical terms…half the time you won’t even notice them, so run your content by someone who knows nothing about your industry and see does the content stand up on its own.

Or think about it like speaking to your grandmother and explaining the topic – no acronyms, no jargon, no technical speak.

Keeping it Simple

Here are just a few of the benefits of simplifying your language and communications:

  • Simple makes your content easy to undertand and remember.
  • Simple makes it easier for people to refer you.
  • Simple makes you a clearer and more powerful communicator.
  • Simple enables the trust process between two people to evolve quicker.

Raise Your Awareness

Become aware of the language you use. When you focus on trying to do better, you’ll catch yourself more easily.

The language we use has a huge ability to create a barrier and has the power to exclude.

In a society that is trying to be more inclusive and diverse, we need to be aware and do better around the language we use. In particular, paying attention to the cultures, nationalities and native languages of the people we interact with on a daily basis.

A Final Thought

What about mentioning jargon at induction meetings for cross cultural teams and bringing this to light.  People will slip and use jargon as part of their every day language without even realising it.  If you highlight the fact that you recognise this and give people the knowledge that their surroundings are safe and it’s ok and even encouraged to ask for clarification, this will have a collective rising tide and positive effect for all.

Have you got other tips and ideas on how to manage the jargon conundrum?

Post a comment and let me know!

Keeping in Touch With NetworkingJean.ie

If you have other ideas and suggestions, I’d love to hear them. You can reach out to me at hello@networkingjean.ie.

And do connect in with me on LinkedinTwitterPinterest and Instagram.  A like, a comment or a share is always appreciated!

Let’s keep the #networking conversation going! You can join my mailing list too and I’d love to have you on board.

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Jean Evans
Jean Evans
Jean Evans is an expert on all things networking. It is her passion, and one that is borne out of experience and plenty of trial and error, mistakes and mishaps. Through her blogs and social media channels, Jean shares tips, tricks, hacks and ideas on how to become an effective networker in business.

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