Lofty Language Fails to Connect

For those communicators who work with — or who are! — professionals who required multiple, high-level degrees to practice in their careers, there can be a tendency to “speak in lofty language.” They forget that those who are *not* members of their profession *don’t* speak in their language. They fail to realize that, rather than being impressed by their advanced knowledge, their intended audience is simply confused and disinterested. Worse, when their intended audience doesn’t “get” the message they don’t *get* the message.

Whenever we wish to communicate with others it *always* makes sense to communicate with them using *their* language, not ours. We intuitively understand this when we’re communicating across global boundaries. But, for some reason, we don’t recognize the same need when attempting to communicate across professional, educational or societal boundaries.

Communicators — like me — must frequently work with professionals who can have a tendency to insist that their terminology be used in their communications. In the health care profession, for instance, this can be evidenced by the use of terms like “radiology” instead of “x-ray” or “myocardial infarction” instead of “heart attack.”

But, having worked with attorneys, engineers and health care providers to communicate to “lay” audiences, I can tell you that the issue is not isolated to the medical community. We can all be guilty of this and, often, unintentionally. We’re just so familiar with our terminology we don’t even realize that others may not be. But, in other cases, there may be a certain amount of “ego” involved – a concern that somehow *they* will be judged as less scholarly/professional than they should be if they use “common” language. The reverse is generally true, I’ve found. Lay audiences have *greater* admiration and respect for those who can clearly convey complex messages to them through words and examples that they can quickly comprehend.

Go ahead and use your lofty language if your goal is to appear smart or important — *maybe* you’ll achieve that goal. But, what you’ll also most certainly achieve is a failure to communicate. If your goal is to connect with an audience — any audience — it makes sense to approach them on their terms not yours.

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