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The importance of Jargon

I did not like jargon. I heard it as a point of separation and observed that it excluded others from the conversation. Whenever I speak to colleagues both from accounting and other fields I would make a point of limiting the use of jargon, to “break it down” so that everyone could join in the conversation.

In May 2014, I spent one week with a group of Organizational Development / Effectiveness practitioners and discovered a new appreciation for jargon and its overall importance.

Over five years ago, I switched careers from accounting to facilitation and coaching and though I attended all the relevant training required and obtained the necessary certifications I still felt a sense of dissonance. I was doing the work, my clients were happy but something did not sit well with me. After one week of hearing fellow OD/ OE practitioners speak and mirroring their use of jargon I felt cadence and the reasons for using jargon for the first time resonated with me.

Shared meaning– The OD/OE practitioners all spoke the same language. No one asked for an explanation as everyone understood what was meant and conversations flowed. Shared meaning allowed the focus to be on other parts of the message which were not clear and the conversation never descended into semantics. All distractions were limited; conversations were economical which added depth and significance to all offerings.

Confidence – Having OD/ OE as the anchor for my coaching and facilitation practice and using the attendant language adds a level of confidence to the work that I do and as a result heightens the service that I give to my clients.

Adds relevance – Speaking the language of OD adds to the essence of what I do and puts my offerings on a larger scale and greater context. Now, I no longer coach individuals, instead, I increase organizational effectiveness by increasing the awareness among the leadership. I do not facilitate workshops; I harness the intelligence of leaders as I help them make effective decisions that will advance the organizational intent. This wider platform increases the value of my work to my clients and lets me focus on adding value as a critical element of each client interaction.

I now understand that jargon is for the people inside of the community. It is not a wall; it is a door that offers to enrich the experience for all the members of the community. Community members are called on to deepen knowledge and invite clients to engage in something bigger than the service they are providing. It adds deeper meaning to each client interaction since it is rooted in a body of knowledge that offers stability and consistency.

I still “break it down” for non-practitioners, ensuring that I am accurate and that I do not forgo meaning for simplicity, but I now have so much more respect for jargon and its purposes.

So colleagues, regardless of your field of work, I ask: What does jargon mean for you? How do you benefit from it? How do you ensure that it is does not exclude?

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About Maxine Attong

Maxine Attong is passionate about writing, facilitation and coaching. Her personal Vision is to "enhance the lives of the people and organizations that she comes into contact with". This Vision is supported by her personal beliefs that all humans are innately intelligent and creative with a desire to do better. Maxine is a graduate of…