Jargon Busting

Communicating Without Barriers

© iStockphoto/enot-poloskun

"Look at these sales figures! You know, Sam, you can't put lipstick on a pig. If we continue this strategic partnering paradigm we might as well be milking a mouse. We've got to cut bait and return to our archetype of using customer-oriented discretionary values to make product reengineering decisions."

If your head is spinning after reading that, you're not alone. The culprit is jargon: The use of specialized terms, idioms, expressions, acronyms and abbreviations that are understandable to only a select group of people.

Jargon – the specialized language of a group of people – has its place in the workplace. It can provide useful shorthand to get across specific meaning quickly. But jargon becomes a problem when it stops people understanding your message. When you start using jargon (perhaps unintentionally) with audiences it is not intended for, people will find you very difficult to understand. Even within the group the jargon's meant for, meanings evolve and newcomers misunderstand. And soon jargon can create barriers within groups too.

In the comments above, made to Sam by his colleague, there are seven instances of business jargon and idioms. You may be familiar with some of the words or phrases, but do you know what the speaker really means? Probably not. That is the problem with jargon. It diminishes the effectiveness of the communication. It would be much easier for Sam, and anyone else listening, if the speaker simply said:

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