Information to help your business benefit from telecommunications

Business relationships

Speech bubble

After all the excitement of understanding the importance of gaining consensus and humming when it comes to taking decisions (See our July and August blogs) we thought we’d return to a theme we’ve looked at several times before, the relationship we have with our customers, both potential and actual…and, more to the point, how we can place obstacles in the way of those relationships.

Those of us who are married would agree that maintaining good communications is vital, that misunderstandings are painful, and that if we ever appear to be patronising or superior in any way we’ll get shot. We know it, yet so many of us ignore the basic rules of good communication when applied to our business life. What we’re specifically thinking of here is jargon and just how many business communications trip their readers, more often than not customers, up either by failing to explain exactly what it is they’re trying to convey or by using some version of business-speak in doing so. We suggest that the first of these is condescending and talks down to the reader, and that the second carries the risk of interrupting the flow of meaning.

Here’s a true story! A colleague ran an experiment on a business writing course he was running for a well-known international building contractor. He asked each of the 14 middle management delegates attending the course to make a list of 10 of the acronyms most commonly used in their part of the building process. So the architects made their lists, as did the quantity surveyors, piling experts, cement pourers, hardware installers, roofers and what have you. In each case they assumed that all the others would know what their acronyms stood for, after all, they’re in the same business, aren’t they? Here’s the thing, contrary to all their expectations, on each list there were at least two or three that the others didn’t know. What was worse is that in a couple of instances there were acronyms that even their fellow roofers (or whatever) didn’t know. The point was made… simplicity is the greatest requirement in good communication and good communication doesn’t allow for any of the potential confusion guaranteed by the use of jargon.

Perhaps a caveat is necessary (or is the use of the word “caveat” jargon in itself? We’ll let you decide).  Take the case of two lawyers having a conversation. One lawyer will inevitably speak to another in legalese and be perfectly well understood, it’s their language as much as French is across the Channel and so both parties will be comfortable with their use of language. Where things go wrong is when one of those lawyers starts to use the same language to a client. That’s when it transcends into jargon and starts being dangerous. How would you feel if someone you were paying to do something spoke to you in a language you scarcely understood? Several emotion responses come to mind, but comfortable and well communicated with aren’t amongst them. That lawyer is alienating his/her client, and when we use jargon specific to our industry we do the same.

Try this list of perfectly acceptable words in the world of academia: Transcend, discourse, synecdochic, heteronormative, liminal, incongruous, circumambulate; how are you doing? All clear?

There’s another snag when using jargon, someone might think they know what you’re talking about and be absolutely wrong. Liminal is all about adding the least possible amount of lime to something, isn’t it? And discoursing something medically unpleasant? Here’s the point we’re trying to make. Good writing is based on simplicity. Beware jargon!

comments powered by Disqus