The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
—George Bernard Shaw
Although he died in 1950, Shaw’s words live on, especially in the business world. Far too many executives, salespeople, consultants, and even rank-and-file employees just don’t communicate very well.
No doubt, you know the type. Some think that they’re speaking and writing effectively when they drop ostensibly sophisticated terms such as paradigm shift, synergy, net-net, low-hanging fruit, and optics.a These folks regularly rely on obscure acronyms, technobabble, jargon, and buzzwords when plain English would suffice. They constantly invent new tech-laden words, bastardize others, and turn nouns into verbs. They ignore their audiences, oblivious to the context of what they say and write. In other words, they “talk without speaking,” to paraphrase a popular U2 song.
Forget for a moment a software vendor’s poorly worded press release and an incoming CEO’s cringe-worthy memo about “strategic synergies and alignments.” There’s an underlying question here: Is such jargon necessary? In other words, are today’s business and technology environments so different and complicated that they require the use of an entirely new, usually confusing vocabulary?
For the most part the answer is no. At a high level, a good communicator should be able to explain confusing topics to teenagers without getting all ...