Nothing is more frustrating than finding yourself within a conversation where one or more parties constantly utilizes acronyms and/or other industry specific terms without regard to the overall audience. You become disenfranchised because an otherwise straight forward discussion has transitioned out of comprehension, leading individuals to feel patronized, inferior, excluded, or disengaged. How often does this happen in circumstances of selling products or even providing services? Far too frequently considering the fact that alienating the precise audience from whom you rely upon for revenue is the last population you would want to unwittingly aggrieve. Imagine an airline employee talking to you in airline lingo! Madam, you are going to LHR from LAS. Unfortunately, today we have an IROP. Say what? Exactly that!
Most of us have been guilty of using industry specific terms or “shop talk.” Typically this isn’t a true gesture of self-aggrandizement (though we’ve definitely come across those few arrogant folks trying to inflate their egos), but rather an innocent oversight in that we either forget that we have a specific knowledge base that others do not, or we are accustomed to discussing such matters with those of a similar foundation.
To help dial in your brain to the lexicon that’s most appropriate, remember the following audiences are least likely to follow your industry specific jargon:
- Clients and Potential Customers
- Professionals Outside of Your Department (unless you are using company-wide terminology)
- Vendors (unless they are privy to industry-specific terms)
- Friends and Family
- Networking with a Mixed Audience
- Basically ANYWHERE that isn’t your intimate departmental associates or specific company/industry peers, is a place where you should NOT use shop talk. Note, that even with our peers, there are occasions that terms lack the universality we assumed them to have.
So the reality is that quite frequently, the majority of our time is marked by interacting with those whom we need to be sensitive to their inclusion in conversation by following these three key rules:
- Encourage Questions: Preface your interactions with the fact that you welcome questions, particularly regarding terms or concepts with which others may not be familiar. This lets people know that you are not trying to exclude them, and that by asking questions they are likewise not viewed as ignorant.
- Decode Your Own Words: Work to find ways to translate overly technical terms or concepts so that your grandmother could understand them. This does NOT mean that we are patronizing others, but respecting the fact that people have various pockets of expertise, and to be inclusive, we often need to find alternative ways to discuss that which would be obvious to a similar professional peer. In the tech world, this is what makes a valuable Sales Engineer/Solutions Architect! It is a skill and often not the easiest to bring clarity to certain concepts for those not familiar with the subject matter, so adopt a healthy dose of patience and develop your analogies to help in bridging these gaps.
- Assume There Will Be Differences: We have to be cognizant that others do not have the same expertise and experiences that we do, so it is always a best practice to periodically check-in with your audience to ascertain their level of comprehension. Using a “trick” from a trainer’s toolbox, ask open-ended questions so that your audience must respond and help you help them to be included.
- What questions do you have?
- Which concepts can I help to further explain?
Of course as certain working groups, clients, and others become more familiar with interacting together, there may be shifts in knowledge regarding certain terms and acronyms, but don’t let your guard down, we work in a rapidly shifting business environment where new people and situations are constantly in the shuffle. Ultimately, when we adopt a healthy dose of self-awareness about how we are speaking with others, we can empower business interactions to be more efficient, effective, and ultimately more profitable. It’s like applying the golden rule to communication: speak to others as you would have them speak to you!