Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Word choices are as confusing as foreign language and often worse

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/5, 1/80
Circle of Confusion at best or Linguistic Chaos

Using Jargon and acronyms from your industry with someone not familiar with that jargon will alienate rather than ameliorate, creating a barrier bigger and harder to fix.

Word Choice

I grew up in a Southern Baptist Bubble. There were words used in our bubble that when we said them they were well understood. Here are some of those words:

  • Sin
  • Sanctification
  • Existentialism
  • Inerrancy
  • Predestination
In the circles I grew up in I knew people that could quote scripture every other sentence and they did!

I always wondered did everyone around me really understand what they were saying or just dropping words to sound impressive. I think today most of them were trying to impress more than truly understanding.

Today I actually find when someone starts down this road of a club language to be very divisive and offensive to me.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/8, 1/500
I think this is the reason for so many nondenominational churches are growing. They tend to use more common language of the marketplace versus a club language.

I was working with an NGO which happens to be run by Christians, but they really want to get non-Christians involved in their social justice projects like digging wells around the world.

They asked for my feedback on a 3 minute video. Twenty seconds into the video the subject talked about why they were involved in with the organization. They dropped the first club language word of "Kingdom of God." 

Immediately I could feel my body actually wanting to get up and leave. They were not even aware how the words alone were creating a barrier and doing just the opposite of what they hoped to accomplish.


First, learning to evaluate your language to see if what you are saying with words is connecting with your audience is quite difficult and requires practice. You need the help of some really trustworthy friends that will be frank with you. You need them to hear or read your verbiage and give you some feedback. 

Now if your friend grew up in the same bubble as you the odds of them helping is less likely. The best feedback is from someone in the audience you want to reach that culturally would not be aware of all your language jargon.

Second, this might sound like it goes first, but in reality as you are confronted with what are you trying to say with this word and being forced to use other words will you come to realize you might not really know what your true intentions are in your thoughts. Often we say things that just make people feel comfortable. However, if you are trying to elicit a response and not just put people at ease then you may actually have to think about what your message really is all about.

Third, you need to realize also that even if you use all the correct words things like psychological and emotional barriers might exist with the audience. They may prematurely judge your words and interpret something you are not saying before you finish your thoughts. The audience may not really be paying attention and be distracted by something else in their life. They may distrust you and anything you say isn't heard.

There are just a lot more reasons than your words that communication breaks down. You should however make it your goal to word your conversations so that the audience understands them and opens up them to hear all of your message. So practice your messaging with a trusted friend so that your language helps you to communicate more effectively. 

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