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Posts Tagged ‘insider language

Jargon: Just Say No. (DGtC #28)

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Make a human happy—speak to be understood

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No matter what organization you are in, there are choices to be made about how you talk with the people around you. No matter what gathering you attend, you speak to communicate or you speak to impress.

We’re never rid of rhetorical flourish and persuasive intent, but can we at least work at speaking to be understood?

You don’t have to be obscure, you know—choose your own space on the continuum.

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Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston

FastCompany: The Beguiling Dangers of Insider Language

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Check out my article in today’s FastCompanyThe Many Dangers of Saying What You Think People Want To Hear

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Image Credit: FastCompany

 

The Cost of the Silver Hand

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In versus out—does it even matter?

It does in Minnesota. It’s 33°F right now—not so cold—but in less than 30 days we’ll plunge well below 0°F and stay there for a month or two. Being inside matters when the outside temperature is cold.

About “inside,” you remember high school, yes? Being an insider seemed to matter there: being part of the groovy clique seemed to say a lot about your identity. But it turned out that the cost paid for being an insider was higher than we realized.

You get inside by exploiting insider behaviors: hang with other insiders, use insider words, allow the insider frame of reference to settle on you and gradually think insider thoughts. There is a certain warmth to being inside. Sometimes it’s safe and cozy. Sometimes staying inside means forming alliances and battling for diminishing territories. A friend recently used those words to describe his years inside a large retailer based in Minneapolis—he left when the cost of alliances and battles was greater than his paycheck.

The classic insider mistake is to think inside is all there is. And that mistake is murder when the layoff discussion happens in the HR office on a bright, cold Friday afternoon. Or when you graduate high school.

But being on the inside is good when you also recognize voices from the fringe. That sort of consciousness allows new thoughts to infect the inside, possibly even countermanding the inbred thinking of insiders talking to insiders.

Lately I’ve been stimulated by reading The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion, by Hagel, Brown and Davison (NY: Basic Books, 2010). In particular, their talk about what the edge person brings to the discussion seems fitting. The edge person is working at something different than the insider. The edge person is trying to accomplish something in a different way and so is asking different questions. The edge person asks questions the insider doesn’t even consider. And it turns out those questions are sometimes the very questions the leaders of the insiders wish they were asking.

My favorite scene in Canal Digital’s “Silver Hand” is at the bar when our hero tries to casually drop the Silver Hand reference.

What a lovely fail.

The smart insider acquaints herself with the habitat and questions of the edge person.

And vice versa.

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Via Canal digital

Burning Down the House: Stop. Drop & Adopt.

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How social greases the gears of change

One way we begin to dispose of our sheltered and separatist clubs and churches and work is to talk about them out loud. When we start to tell a stranger about a sacred ritual inside the walls of our church, we stop and realize, “Wait—this probably sounds like nonsense.” And so we back up to start earlier with the “Why?” and “What for?” And then we drop the insider words and adopt common words.

Same with our work: when someone asks how we spend our day, we don’t use our office or shop-talk words. Most people don’t understand lingo of the workplace (especially folks in the workplace). So we stop. We drop the shortcut words in favor of the basic words used by the rest of the humans that speak our language.

And then we paint that ritual or work or favored topic in the best possible light. It’s a little rhetorical flourish we do without realizing. I want you to be excited by what excites me, so I talk it up. I punch it with bits of enthusiasm and look for ways and words that help you get the same vision I have.

Do what you must to pull in the stranger.

Do what you must to pull in the stranger.

Getting others interested by telling the juicy bits of what interests us is one of the basic ingredients of any social media. It also happens to be a basic expectation of story-telling.

What’s that?

You don’t have contact with strangers?

You only talk with other insiders?

Is it time to reconsider your circle of friends to pull in outsiders? There’s much to be gained from relating your passion to someone who has no clue what you are about.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

November 3, 2014 at 9:09 am

Are You In—Or Are You a Loser?

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Is club membership really that critical to you?

Sometimes we observe similarities between work and church. Here’s a way work and church similarly lose momentum with every conversation: making club membership their most important feature.

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At work VPs and managers and employees speak in Dilbertesque code. Acronyms are just the beginning. In the medical device world, there are shorthand words for landmark studies, shorthand words for device features and benefits, shorthand words for certain technological functions. Shorthand words for the management focus of the quarter. Unless you’ve been around the team for a time, you wouldn’t understand 60% of the conversation. That’s why advertising agencies routinely hire translators when they get projects with medical device firms—they just don’t get the gibberish these smart people are talking.

At church we put on holy language and use words that make us seem like we are in the know. We deliver these words calmly as if they were on our minds all the time. The language of doubt is mostly unwelcome in this setting—this is where the faithful come for their weekly booster shot. And so language becomes subterfuge.

The problem with insider language at work or church is that it sets up participants for failure again and again. In both settings, many of the folks in the conversation don’t understand the very words they are saying—and don’t even realize they don’t understand. Or maybe they realize it but the insider current is so strong they are afraid to admit their lack.

Plain speech is a subversive force. Not only does plain speech out those not in the know, it actually forces those who think they know to explain or realize they know less than they thought. Plain speech is a force for progress because it breaks down hidden barriers and destroys a primary rhetorical tool for those who want to sit on their knowledge and keep it for themselves and to protect their kingdom.

This is why…again…no question is a dumb question. The simplest questions often carry great power.

As organizations (like work and church) realize they need to evangelize and draw outsiders in as a matter of survival, insider language must die.

Insider language is dead!

Long live language!

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Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

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