After his Navy days as the ship’s navigator, Scott’s first civilian job as a maintenance engineer at a chemical plant finally utilized his mechanical engineering background. One evening, after I asked about his day, Scott began sharing a long and complicated story about a problem at the plant and how he developed a solution. In his excitement, he shared very specific details about the processes involved, the tools needed, and the skills incorporated for the successful fix. About halfway through his very lengthy explanation, I remember looking at him and interrupting, “You are the only person in my life who talks like you do.” He truly sounded as if he was using a foreign language, and no matter how hard I tried, I just could not understand what he was saying. But wait? I’m a pretty well-educated person who loves to read and learn and research (I know - what a nerd!), so why couldn’t I understand Scott’s story? Bottomline, I just didn’t know his industry jargon. According to the Google Dictionary, jargon is defined as “special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.” Doctors, lawyers, teachers, dancers, gardeners … most trades, professionals, and groups use specialized terminology only understood by its members. Texting even has its own jargon. You probably know ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing) or BTW (by the way), but you may be less familiar with the newer senior text jargon - FWIW (forgot where I was) or ROTFL … CGU (rolling on the floor laughing … can’t get up). I love those!
Acronyms, abbreviations, and specialized vocabulary can make communicating with those outside of the industry or group difficult and confusing. And many times, we assume that those involved in the industry or group already know the jargon. But what happens when you need to communicate with someone who doesn’t understand your vocabulary? Or perhaps you need to mentor a new employee? Or even explain something to someone in a different area of the company or to a community or family member? And with our advancing technology and innovations, how do you “teach” others newly developed jargon? Here are some communication strategies to help explain your industry’s jargon:
1. For new employees, create a company glossary with all acronyms, abbreviations, and specialized words. Make the document available to all employees to insure that there is a company-wide consistency for all of the definitions. Also continually update the glossary as new terms are created or as old ones are modified.
2. When using the jargon to communicate, make it a habit to substitute for the specific word. Find synonyms (words that mean the same thing) or appositives (nouns or noun phrases that can help describe the word) or briefly define the word. For example, a few weeks ago at a wine tasting, the guide said, “Note the finish, the impression of textures and flavors left in the mouth after you swallow the wine.” He easily and seamlessly used and defined a specific wine term “finish” without making us all feel stupid.
3. When you use acronyms, use the words too. Did you realize that base jumping is actually an acronym for the four types of fixtures you can jump from - building, antenna, span, or Earth? And according to a Huffpost article, “Care packages were originally CARE packages; they were sent via the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe to Americans’ loved ones in Europe as the continent struggled to recover from the ravages of WWII. The organization eventually changed its name to Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere.”
4. Finally, use a visual representation of any specialized vocabulary. Research shows that we understand pictures better than words, so take a photo of the machinery or use a chart to explain the process.
To be honest, I still don’t always understand when Scott shares about the specifics of his day, but he has learned to use strategies to help me. etc Strategies believes that working to better explain or define industry-specific jargon can help create more successful communication experiences. This is the EOD, so TYVM for reading my blog, and TTYL (next Tuesday!). And BTW, I really HTH!