nothing to do

You wipe your sweaty palms, take some deep breaths, and try to think about anything except where you are about to go. The door opens. You hear your name called, and you follow a stranger down the hallway, glancing at the folder she’s holding that hold vital information- life altering test results. You answer the usual irritating questions with a plastic smile. You try to ignore the hacking cough coming from the room next door that seems to jackhammer your frayed nerves, and fail miserably.

A hurried knock at the door ushers in a towering hulk dressed in white lab coat, who doesn’t pretend to smile as he shakes your hand. ”I’m Dr. Jargon. Your initial test results indicate premalignant dysplastic changes and abnormalities that suggest a possible Grade II cervical intraepithelial basal third of the epithelium.”

Blink. “Um, okay,” you think, “Is that in English?” Irritated and at a loss for patience, you ask, ” Does that mean I have cancer or not?”

That’s what it boils down to every time. Give me the bottom line, in clear concise understandable words.

Knowing Your Target Audience

The group of people you are trying to reach with your message is called your target audience, and should be at the heart of every email, letter, or spoken sentence you utter.

Why Jargon Doesn’t Work

  1. People don’t trust advertising gimmicks, and they are generally unimpressed by your knowledge of the deep inner workings of your field of expertise (or the field you know little about but try to feign intimate knowledge of by bantering around a bunch of jargon).
  2. Your time is valuable, and you should respect others’ time as well. People are busy. They don’t want to have to put everything you say through an internal dictionary filter to get to the heart of what you are saying. In fact, people are so busy that they won’t even bother to try to decipher your message- they’ll just tune you out and move on.
  3. If you can convey the same message effectively using 10 words or 25 words, go for the 10. Your target audience doesn’t need to know all the details about the inner workings of your work life- they don’t need to know, therefore they don’t want to know. Say what you mean clearly, then stop talking.
  4. The average consumer can spot a salesperson in under five seconds. They don’t trust salespersons, they don’t like to be preached to, and they won’t listen to anything that sounds remotely close to a sales pitch. They want to talk to someone who is on the same level as they are, or who at least has the ability to put the cookies on the bottom shelf so everyone can reach them. They want to know, “What’s in it for me?” Your job is to tell them what they want to know in a manner that doesn’t alienate them.
  5. We are relationally lazy. We naturally want to put as little effort into building and maintaining relationships as is necessary. If it takes work to understand what you are trying to say, I lose my desire to communicate with you.

Where Does Jargon Belong?

Industry-specific jargon is not totally taboo. Using jargon during a job interview, or when conversing with your peers is completely appropriate. You can also mix jargon into your general communication in limited amounts (as long as you explain the terms you are using without sounding as if you are talking down to your audience).

How Does this Relate to My Business?

Knowing what effect your use of jargon has on others can be a real eye opener in both your professional and personal life. If you rely upon written communication such as email correspondence, newsletters, blog posts, ebooks, training manuals, books, or sales copy, every word matters and each correspondence has the potential to make or break your business.

One of the biggest mistakes new bloggers make is not adjusting their publications to be relevant to their target audience. Are you writing for your peers or your potential and current customers? There should be a distinct difference when addressing each respective target audience.

Newbies often jump into blogging and social media head first, without pausing to think about exactly who will be reading what they write. Some seasoned business professionals are so deeply engrossed in their industry that they no longer notice their use of jargon and lose the ability to connect with others on a level devoid of the jargon that has become their native language.

In business, you are selling a service or a product. In your personal life, you are selling your thoughts, your views, or yourself. We are all buying or selling- exchanging ideas, goods, and services continuously. Jargon used in the wrong setting can hinder your communication and distance your target audience.


Creative Commons License photo credit: Angelo González

8 thoughts on “Are You Alienating Your Clients with This Common Tactic?

  1. Pingback: Business Jargon

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