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A Case for Low-Hanging Fruit

In my workshops and coaching sessions, I teach the importance of using plain English when discussing capabilities to clients. I discourage the use of acronyms and industry jargon that may be confusing or meaningless to clients and prospects who do not live in the same business world.

Research shows that people who use jargon are considered to be less trustworthy. When jargon is used, it often requires the listener to take a second or two to process the word or phrase - often having a negative impact on their ability to absorb what is being said.

There are different kinds of jargon. Industry jargon is specific to the business in which you work and becomes short-hand among industry professionals - in essence, the secret language of the in-crowd. The problem is that if the client is outside of your industry - it could make them feel like they are the out-crowd.

Company jargon is comprised of those words that are specific to your company, often product names and titles mixed in with a lot of cumbersome acronyms. It amazes me how often these slip into conversations with people outside of the company who have no reason to know this vocabulary and are often left confused.

Business jargon is comprised of those words and phrases that seem to cross all industries. Examples of these are "partner", "thought leadership", "trusted advisor", "value-added" and "best practices". To me, these are the most dangerous to use as they can sound like hollow promises that could be viewed as disingenuous.

Often lumped in with these destructive jargon types are phrases that some people find annoying because they have become so overused. Examples of these are "the lay of the land"; "at the end of the day"; and "think out of the box". At one time, these phrases were probably unique and added variety to an otherwise boring business conversation - I might argue that some still do. I remember the first time I heard the phrases "low-hanging fruit", and "lipstick on a pig". I knew what the speaker meant immediately and they worked because they not only made the point quickly, but they also added a burst of color to the discussion. Phrases like these can help to establish emotional connections and create a more colloquial and friendly atmosphere.

I may be in the minority here, but I think business conversations benefit from some well-placed vibrant and clever phrases that help us to grasp the meaning of an idea. I recognize that a few should probably be retired as they have become overused, but I do hope that they are replaced with other phrases that bring ideas and concepts to life in an interesting way.

Below are some common phrases that I have been known to use every once in a while... What do you think- annoying or effective? Which do you think should be retired? Have you heard any new phrases recently that you find to be effective?

Move the needle

Boil the ocean

Open the kimono

Change the deck chairs on the Titanic

Peel the onion

Think out of the box

Circle back

Tee it up

Drink the Kool-Aid

Low-hanging fruit

Lipstick on a pig

At the end of the day

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