In this Is This Mic On? We tackle the question of, “How do I improve team communication?” Read on to hear what SNP had to say about bottom lining, jargon, and authentic communication.
Jargon, I can’t live with it, and I’m hoping my team can live without it. I’ve noticed lately that my team’s emails are full of “hope this finds you well!”, “circling back”, and the dreaded, “per my last email.” What’s worse is that this doesn’t stop at email. When there’s a disagreement in a meeting the conversation, more often than not, ends with a “let’s take this offline.” The jargon is going from passive-aggressive to straight-up aggressive. And it’s keeping us from real conversations, effective teamwork, and generally connecting as coworkers. How do I help my team cut the jargon and be direct with the bottom line while not being aggressive?
First, a tip-of-the-cap to the pun in your name. Because let’s be clear: puns are hopefully clever and often smart. Overused phrases that Google knows how to autofill: that’s jargon.
The thing is, you answered your own question. The way to cut the jargon is to simply know how to simplify. Get to the bottom line. Say the real content, or ask the real question. So let’s take a look at some common jargon phrases and some alternatives…
3 Jargon Alternatives to Improve Team Communication
Jargon: Per my last email…
What it really sounds like: If you had responded to my last email in any kind of timely manner like a true professional, I wouldn’t have to write another email, asking you to refer to the email that’s right below this email and/or I wouldn’t have to answer a question that I clearly already answered in the email below that you clearly have not read.
While jargon can come in many forms, this one is mostly in writing. I mean, how many times have you said “per our last conversation” or “per my last email” out loud? Our guess: not many. So go back to the core of the message. If you received a question that you’ve already answered: just answer it. No need to call out the perceived repetition. Giving the audience the benefit of the doubt, maybe they didn’t understand the original answer. Or maybe they just have 100 emails and missed it. Just answer it and move on. Strip out the emotion from the question (mainly, your emotion) and get to the point.
And if you’re using the “per my last email” as a way to bubble up a message to the top of an inbox? It’s like Einstein’s definition of insanity: sending another email, and another email, with the anticipation of getting a response. Seems like a faulty strategy. Consider picking up the phone, and for the love of glory, don’t start the conversation with “did you get my email?”
Jargon: Let’s take this offline.
What it really sounds like: I’m so annoyed at the last five minutes of conversation and can’t bear for it to continue one more second.
This one gives me chills. Memories of being a kid doing something untoward in public and hearing my mom, through gritted teeth, say “we’ll talk about this at home.” I knew it wasn’t good. And what’s worse – all of my friends knew it wasn’t good.
Alternative: This is meeting facilitation. Playback, park, revisit. When a conversation goes awry or there is a side conversation that isn’t relevant to the group, do a quick playback of the content, acknowledge that it’s going into a parking lot (realize we’re dangerously close to jargon right there), and then at the end of the meeting review all parking lot topics and create an action plan. Now: un-grit your teeth.
Jargon: Hope this email finds you well.
What it really sounds like: _______________________.
Let’s be honest. You let Google autofill this one, didn’t you? Don’t believe me. Go open gMail, and start to type “Hope this” and see what happens. It’s a little sad but indeed, what was once perhaps a very sincere greeting has turned into autofill jargon that says nothing. It just fills some space before you get into the main point. If you want to do a similar test from the above, would you ever really say that out loud? “Hi Penelope, I hope this conversation finds you well.” No. Odd. Moving on.
You have six words here. Make them count. Think about your audience: the person opening this email. What personal piece of content can you add to the top of your message. Maybe it refers to a casual conversation from your last meeting (and no, not per your last meeting). Maybe it’s referencing a game/show/concert you know they were looking forward to. It doesn’t matter what it is, it just matters that you use those six-plus words with intention, with a focus on your audience. Forgo the autofill.
Improve Team Communication by Changing the Culture
Jargon wants us to use generic terminology to fit in. We want to use the language that we hear from others to adapt to a culture. What’s even more powerful: considering what the jargon is actually communicating. So ask your team the question: what do you mean here? Help them find the words that will resonate with their audience. That’s a true culture of communication.