Translating Tech: Working with non-technical co-workers–Use your words

We’ve all been there. Sitting in a meeting, carefully explaining what it is that, “you do.” Defining acronyms, using kludged paraphrasing, and ham-fisted allegories. Sometimes, it feels like you’re speaking a different language. Well, on a certain level, that’s exactly what is happening.

One of the major barriers to learning a new discipline, or even simply explaining something, is jargon.

Jargon has its uses: You can turn complicated concepts into a word or two; It standardizes discussion rather than forcing you to parse various similes/metaphors; It allows for generalization. Jargon also excludes the uninitiated (arguably the real point of jargon).

The problem is, almost everything can be jargon, but there are a few egregious offenders: acronyms, common words used with cryptic meanings, doublespeak. Each of these force the listener to start trying to parse their meaning, while you keep speaking. If they manage to figure it out, they’ve missed what you’ve said in the meantime and they’re lost.

So, how do we fix this? First, prepare, prepare, prepare. If you need to talk about a technical matter at a meeting with non-technical co-workers, plan ahead by pre-parsing your jargon. Don’t use acronyms until you’ve defined them (and repeat the full version at least twice), write your metaphors first and use them consistently (don’t mix car engines with blowing glass; don’t ask), and don’t use doublespeak. Ever. Even amongst technical speakers.

The final tip to remember is that you should avoid complicated words and concepts. Keep it simple. Your co-workers are already doing a lot of work parsing new concepts, don’t make them work at the language. You don’t need to take this to the absolute extreme, but it’s also not the best time to practice your lexiconical hobbies.

This entry was posted in Meta-coding, Social, Translating Tech, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Translating Tech: Working with non-technical co-workers–Use your words

  1. Pingback: Translating Tech: Don’t get cocky | The Code Gnome

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