Are You on the Inside or the Outside of Jargon?

On an online network, the subject of word use became a topic of discussion. This is a worthy topic of discussion anywhere, but it seems especially important online, where the written word becomes the primary means of communication.

Several subtopics emerged in our discussion, including jargon. Jargon is a powerful time saver, if you are inside the circle of people who know its meaning. If you are outside that circle, though, the use of jargon can confuse, annoy, or exclude you. The extent this is problematic to you will depend on how much you want to be in the inner circle.

Entering any new subculture requires getting acquainted with the vernacular. Understanding acronyms, jargon, shortcuts, inside humor, and incomplete sentences are all part of getting acclimated to a subculture or inner circle. Consider the casual chatter about the Internet these days compared to, say, five years ago. Even over lunch time conversation, you will say or hear jargon like ISP, domain, spam, virtual networking, ezines, and on and on. Not that long ago, such conversations would have been very foreign.

As a consultant and coach, I find it absolutely essential to listen to the language of my clients and speak their language as much as possible. Sometimes I ask for clarification when I am unfamiliar with an expression, but often I let it go unquestioned, knowing that if it is important I will figure it out or it will come around again. By being with my clients in their vernacular, I can more easily introduce other language. I am constantly looking for how I can assist others in using language in more and more empowering ways.

Helping people to lift their consciousness through use of language is key to my work. If I let language that I think is silly (for example, “more is less”) pass without a comment, I can more easily focus on transforming language that is truly disempowering to language that creates desired change, whether the language is jargon or some other form of a shortcut or automatic response. For example, “I hate my job, I’m really stuck, everything’s going wrong. . .” are ideas that are truly disempowering and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. A more empowering idea, which is usually believable to the person expressing those ideas, is “I am ready for a job I love.”

Effective use of language clarifies meaning. When language creates confusion, not all is lost, because when confusion is out in the open, greater clarity can emerge. Language is creative. Underneath language are thoughts. Thoughts expressed in language become more tangible than thoughts unexpressed.

One of my favorite quotations of Albert Einstein expresses it so well, “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t know enough about it.”