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Be clear not clever.

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

Not a day goes by where we're not bombarded by jargon.

Every industry, business, and profession carries with it its own special language.

But here's a personal revelation: I absolutely cannot stand jargon. From my medical training, to my corporate career, to my current work, jargon bothers me. It always has and it always will.

I get it. We all fall into certain language patterns when we work in a particular profession or industry. But it's those over-done and overused phrases and words that bolster people's egos and make them feel clever that get right up my nose.

When I was working in big corporate, we often retained consultants to help us with large projects. I recall one particular occasion where a very large, very well-known consulting firm come to present their work. They went through the carefully choreographed, colour-coordinated slide-deck, and then asked if anyone had any questions. I asked, "Please could you put what you just said into plain, direct language. You know, language that everyone will understand so that we know how to put it into action." The team of four presenters looked at each other and then looked at the floor. They couldn't do it. We'd spent over $200,000 for a fancy presentation containing nothing we could actually use. Marvellous. And so began my intensely acrimonious relationship with jargon.

Here's the thing: Being clear beats being clever. Always.

Why? Because when we're trying to be clever we're not helping anyone, including ourselves. When we use jargon and fancy words in an attempt to position ourselves as experts, it has the opposite effect. It sounds fancy but who does it actually help?

The brilliant physicist, Dr Richard Feynman, was an incredible scientist and teacher. He believed that even the most complex scientific theories could be easily explained to anyone, and he spent his life proving that very point. He brought science to life in a way people could see, feel, and understand. It was pure brilliance.

Using plain language brings people to life, motivates them, and helps them make progress. When you use words people understand, they're able to 'feel' and experience what's being said. The words become more than just an academic exercise and become tools that move people; literally and figuratively.

Think of all best motivational speakers in the world. They each have one thing in common: They use plain, easy to understand, on-point language. They're not fancy and flowery; they're direct and honest. And it conjures up feelings in you that make you believe you can conquer the world (because, in truth, you can). When you listen, you're not having to over-process, trying to figure out what it is they're trying to say. You get it; instantly.

Here's my challenge to you. Whether you're a service provider or a client of a service provider, clear your own path through the jargon and use plain words.

Be clear before being clever; and experience the enormous difference it makes in how you feel, the things you do, and the results you get. It's pure magic.

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