Jargon Is a Barrier: Why It’s Important to Keep It Simple

Have you ever attended a multi-department meeting and caught yourself quietly reflecting on just how much you didn’t understand? Did you stop to think about why?

It probably wasn’t because you were thinking about other things (not this time at least). You were listening, you were interested, but you could not digest the information.

Chances are, the culprit of the disconnect is jargon. You didn’t understand because you weren’t familiar with the terminology that was being used to deliver the point.

What’s jargon?

For those who are unfamiliar with the word, jargon is the terminology specific to a profession or skill and, in short, it is slowing down innovation.

Jargon certainly has relevance on a peer-to-peer level. It helps people within the same profession identify each other and speak more efficiently and effectively about ideas. But, for the same reason that jargon can create closeness, it also creates separation.

Jargon isolates ideas

Jargon can separate people from the ideas that you are trying to deliver to them. Think about that meeting we just remembered together. Was it jargon keeping you from fully engaging and understanding? Jargon creates efficient communication between same-field colleagues but, ultimately isolates non-experts from engaging. There are a few problems with that:

  1. Innovation is driven by the various inputs on a project or idea and every perspective is essential, experts and non-experts alike.
  2. Being a non-expert in field-A doesn’t mean a person doesn’t have a highly valuable knowledge base in field-B. Simplifying language so that cross-field innovation can be realized could be the first step to something amazing.
  3. Being a non-expert in field-A doesn’t mean that a person isn’t smart enough to understand what is being said, it simply means that the delivery of communication wasn’t chosen carefully enough for the audience.
  4. As government employees we all wear many different hats and have to work within a variety of fields. Jargon is intimidating and can, honestly, make taking on a new task feel impossible when it really isn’t.
  5. Jargon can shut opportunity down. Pitching a new technology to a local government admin or your executive director? If they do not understand what you are saying, you won’t get very far. And even if you do secure the new technology using jargon, you will probably hear something in the follow-up like:

“That’s way easier than I thought it would be!”

It is important to keep. language. simple. Without simplicity, it is easy to exclude people who are willing to try, interested in engaging, or relevant to the conversation.

Jargon has an appropriate audience and is better used as a quick form of communication with the right people than as a display of expertise around the wrong people.

Jamie Desrosier is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She has spent the past two years in Colorado working as a Marketing and Communications professional within state and local government technology for government authority, Colorado SIPA. Prior to moving to Colorado, she spent 2 years as a Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia. She spends every day learning as much as she can and is excited to be working on her Master’s of Information Technology Management with a specialization in cybersecurity. You can read her posts here.

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Jacob Hege

Our language can often be a barrier to people in many ways. It is important that we are aware of how our words can exclude people. Thanks for your insight!