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POSTED 30.8.2018

Our top five reasons to execute a hard stop on reaching out and other horrible expressions (Why jargon is bad for your business!)

I was at a meeting with a prospective client some months ago and just as proceedings kicked off, the CEO made an announcement. He declared to the assembled gathering that he was going to have to 'execute a hard stop at 1pm'.

By Ciarán Byrne

Channelling my best Fargo, I almost blurted “sorry, what’s that now?”

The looks around the room told their own story — uncomprehending faces among those who did not work for the company, uncomfortable glances from his employees. I think someone may have even sniggered.

Hard stop. Seriously?

What he *meant* was that he would have to leave the meeting at 1pm. But he felt unable to simply say that. He chose to use jargon.

The actual phrase, for the uninitiated, is used in policing circles when officers surprise a suspect by, you know, ramming a car off the road or maybe pouncing on him or her in the street. That’s a hard stop; using the element of surprise to nail the bad guy. The act of politely excusing yourselves from a meeting is clearly not a hard stop.

Why then is the term bandied about in business circles? It’s easy to call this meaningless jargon but everything has a meaning. The problem here is the act of applying the wrong meaning.

The business and corporate environment, from the largest brands right down through SMEs and sole traders, is choked with jargon. This toxic verbal and written algae kills clear communication and good content, murders press releases and destroys any chance of telling a good story.

Jargon is the language of misunderstanding and confusion, a lexicon of bad imagery that doesn’t connect with real people for good reason: it’s complete verbal diarrhoea. The best content, be it an internal memo or a company story, is always jargon-free. That’s what makes it readable and relatable.

Can you imagine sitting in a café or pub and telling a friend or family member you have to “execute a hard stop” after the encounter?

How about suggesting a “two-pizza meeting”?  Nothing to do with food, in US tech companies this *means* having a quick a team meeting of eight or fewer people, loosely based on the metric of two slices per person.

Maybe “reaching out” is your thing.

Here’s a few business emails I have received in the last few months.

“Hi Ciaran, 

I see you were researching one of our products. Thanks for your inquiry, I’m reaching out to see if you’d like to talk…” 

 

“Hi Ciaran 

 I tried reaching out to you earlier last week, but couldn’t make contact…”

 

“Hello Ciaran,       

I’m reaching out to you about your laptop repair…”

 

Why does a business choose to speak to people this way? Probably it believes it sounds somehow better, smarter, more impressive. “Reaching out” and yakking about “hard stops” is cool and modern.

It isn’t.

And that’s the real reason you should ditch the jargon; not only does it make you sound like a walking cliché, jargon actively hampers your business. People just don’t know what you are on about.

Here’s our top five reasons why jargon is so very bad for your business:

  1. Jargon is words and phrases that are guaranteed to be misunderstood by lots of people
  2. It forces customers and staff to decipher what you are saying and look for meaning —nobody has the feckin’ time lads!
  3. In talking over people’s heads, you’re also being incredibly annoying
  4. Outside of the conference or meeting room, people don’t speak like this — ever
  5. People might consider you bit of a bullshitter — and they’d be right.

So don’t be that guy or gal. Stop reaching out, dump the hard stops, avoid two-pizza meetings and get real. In fixing your language, you can fix the story and spread the word. Keep it simple.

If you’re having issues with this kind of thing or require help with content and storytelling, don’t reach out. Give us a call. You can also catch updates and tips by subscribing to our newsletter. Gwan!