Discover more from Better by Design
4 tips for clear communication
How to build bridges, not barriers, with your words
Hello! I’m Pat and Better by Design is my newsletter devoted to crafting great design, quality business, and a prosperous creative life. If you’re new here, join 2200+ creative professionals as we uncover new insights each week.
A fun part of developing skill in any craft is picking up the language that accompanies it: the jargon.
Learning it not only makes you feel like one of the tribe, but it’s also useful!
Within the tribe, jargon communicates specific concepts very efficiently. However, for those outside the group, the language can often seem confusing, inaccessible, or gate-keeping.
Professional jargon is to be expected, however, it can pose challenges in multidisciplinary environments.
How can we avoid miscommunication when one side doesn’t understand the other's language?
Today I want to share 4 tips that help me communicate more clearly and consistently across disciplines.
1. Slow down
Jargon is fast.
It’s like a mental shortcut that lets you speed through layers of meaning via an abstraction you share with a select group of like-minded people.
Just like when you’re communicating with someone who speaks a different native tongue, slowing down will help the other party to understand. It gives them time to register the context clues of the conversation or ask for an explanation.
You may be speaking the same language, but not speaking the same language… if you know what I mean.
2. Tap into your empathy reserves
It’s not your colleague’s fault they don’t know your jargon; they just happen to have learned other jargon instead.
Considering how often I see empathy listed as a primary, desired trait for tech and design workers, it’s surprising how infrequently I see it extended to colleagues rather than just the canonical “user”.
One day you will certainly be in your coworker’s shoes on the receiving end of language that makes no sense to you, so exercise your patience, try to understand where people are coming from, and show your audience a little extra kindness.
3. Embrace the Stoic practice of “plain speech”
These things aren’t so fancy, he says.
Wine is just fermented grape juice, after all.
And robes are just dyed layers of sheep’s wool.
By viewing things in their most basic, unembellished form, we're less likely to be swayed by emotions or societal values that might lead us away from rational judgment and virtue.
Stripping away your labels and preconceptions allows you to see the thing in its purest form.
It gives you the space to think more clearly.
4. Strive to be “impeccable with your word”
The word, as a symbol, has the magic and power of creation because it can reproduce an image, an idea, a feeling, or an entire story in your imagination… [it is] all about the message you deliver, not just to everyone and everything around you, but the message you deliver to yourself.
The words you choose matter.
They encapsulate the story you tell yourself about who you are, what you do, and why you’re here on this earth.
You can use them to build up or tear down, to include or exclude, to spread positivity, or spark hate.
The choice is yours.
Will you create a story you’d be proud to tell?
The words we choose are more than just instruments of expression; they're instruments of thought.
They're the bedrock of our professional identities and shape the way we interact with our work, colleagues, and the wider world.
So master your craft and its specific language!
But stay mindful of how the words you choose shape your life experience.
Strive to be clear, concise, and considerate of those who may not immediately understand your language, and remember that communication is a two-way street.
There's a time and place for jargon, but I hope I might encourage you to be more intentional with your words and use their power to build bridges instead of creating barriers.
Until next time,
If you got a little value from this post, consider subscribing, sharing, or following me on Twitter. If you got a lot of value, consider pledging to support my work with a paid subscription in the future.