June is “Effective Communications Month,” which, as far as I can tell, is a far more popular month to celebrate than “Soul-Zapping Communication Month.”
As I’ve said oh-so-many times, when it comes to effective communication, it’s not just what you say, but how you say things that matter. That’s why 90% of people agree it’s okay to pray while you smoke, but only 10% agree it’s okay to smoke while you pray.
It’s also why a study found that when people watch a film of a car accident and are then asked to rate the speed of the cars, the average speed the viewers believe they have watched changes depending on how the question is asked: How fast were the cars going when they smashed/collided/bumped/hit/contacted each other? Changing the wording resulted in slower observed speeds: if cars “smashed” into each other they were going an average of 41 mph, whereas those same cars “contacting” each other were only doing 32 mph. Words matter.
According to the book, “Why Business People Speak Like Idiots,” leaders who stuff their presentations full of meaningless jargon are trusted less than leaders who use simple, straightforward language. They also found that the higher the level of “blah, blah blah” at work, the more employees suffered from the blahs.
And a study by Daniel Oppenheimer of Princeton University, found that when people rated the intelligence level of people who wrote various passages, the written samples that contained the simplest language were always rated as being written by someone of higher intelligence over those passages where the language was more complex.
Effective communication isn’t about “dumbing things down” – it’s simply about being smart.
Here are four fun ways to reduce the use of jargon in your workplace:
1. Create a jargon jar, akin to a swear jar, where everyone puts a quarter in for your favorite charity or social fund every time they use a certain buzzword or acronym.
2. Do what Silver Linings Consulting does and hold a theme day once a month where everyone purposely tries to speak in the most bureaucratic sounding language as possible as a playful reminder of how NOT to speak the rest of the time.
3. Hold a spirited game of buzzword bingo in one of your meetings using customized bingo cards of your most overused buzzwords and acronyms.
4. Hold a drinking game (er, non-alcoholic) in your meetings – every time someone utters a cliché buzzword everyone takes an exaggerated sip of their refreshing beverage in unison.
Michael Kerr. Michael Kerr is a Hall of Fame international business speaker and one of Canada’s funniest motivational speakers. For great ideas and inspiration sign up for his weekly e-zine, Humor at Work.
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