Communication Builds what Jargon Breaks

If you can convey complex messages to ten year olds and win back enthused responses, you’ve likely connected with the kind of zip that sets meaning into gold casings for the rest of us. Check out 106 ways to become a master connector.

In spite of what we tell ourselves, jargon is rarely if ever necessary if you think about it. Not that clear communication’s easy, or that lucid language leaps into place without some struggles. It’s just that clutter – or alien words build unnecessary barriers, and work against even high impact minds

Check out recent facts from the brain sciences that foster clarity. The human brain’s hardwired, for instance, to latch onto familiar parts of any message communicated, in order to pound new neuron pathways toward meaning in that message. Clear communication links what you already know to what stirs curiosity in your brain. See the mental synergy created here to chase and absorb complex skills? In contrast, jargon breaks any exchange and risks meaningless circles that go nowhere.

Jargon stops clarity, robs understanding, implies exclusion, and sends overtones of pretentiousness. Yet we delude ourselves into thinking it’s necessary when we speak in our own area of expertise. Read any PhD thesis – including mine – and you’ll see what I mean.

Some people speak of “dumbing down” a message, when they really mean making their bright ideas simpler so that people they assume to be dumber than them,  can understand. Yikes! Spot any arrogance here?

Others speak of jargon as essential for bright ideas that engage people of only highest intelligence, when they really show lack of skill to engage diverse thinkers, who may need a few basic facts illumined, to catch deeper meanings.

Here are five brain based questions that leapfrog over jargon, and promote richer communications:

1. What would your idea look like if we had one?
2. How does your insight improve one practice we currently do?
3. If your idea was written into a play what would appear on the stage?
4. How would this design be worded for a 10 year old to apply it?
5. What exactly would result if your proposal was lost to the world?

Intelligence that’s rarely engaged in circular constructions or projected by jargon, springs into life when words connect dendrite brain cells in high performance minds. C.S. Lewis claimed that not many do this well, and he showed how deep meanings – communicated well – involve simplicity beyond complexity. Those who share deep ideas in understandable lingo, though, will rarely tell you that jargon’s useful in any exchange.

What do you think? Could you covert a complex concept from your field into a dynamic topic that generates a ten year old’s curiosity? If so, why not share it here with that same sense of wonder that builds clarity without jargon.

7 Comments

  1. I agree I felt how you mentioned that your message should be well understood by a 10 year old, is a great filter.
    Many of us (as adults) hide behind the jargon because we have not idea of what we are saying. If we just use a bunch of large jargony words we will dazzle them. Most people within a workshop, trainining,meeting etc… do not ask questions of what you are saying.
    They do not ask what the jargon means because they are fearful that they are the only ones.
    A 10 year old will ask “what? what? what are you taliking about?”
    Also with a 10 year old you had better keep it simple and exciting or else you lose their attention.
    In this day of 100+ power point slides with stories written on font that is too small, where we cram all of our information into Text messages and IM talk.
    The KISS (keep it simple STUPID) method still applies

    michael carduss last blog post..Should Team Members Be Friends? part 2

  2. rummuser says:

    Yes Ellen I can and it is extremely difficult for me not to. Like my current obsession’s teachers teach their children to hate, I find it difficult not to do the same to children in my patch of green. Sometimes people of my age get so worried about my current passion that they feel the need to slow me down!

    rummusers last blog post..Prayer.

  3. eweber says:

    Michael, you make a good case for the questions we ask and should ask yet I am reminded in reading your comments that we also hide behind what we do not know and think we should know. Perhaps we also need to consider the way to encourage more good questions, and use these to help us eliminate jargon as well:-)

  4. eweber says:

    Wow those youth are lucky to have you to encourage and guide them into new insights and adventures – so they can grow into life-long learners with similar passion to grow, Ramana.

  5. […] situations when unfamiliar expressions exclude them. Leaders in one field falter because jargon in another field barricades any kind of joint solutions to shared […]

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