A buzzword is an unusual word that people in a certain sector of life use frequently.  They words are esoteric in nature, meaning, they are unique and unusual and seldom used outside this limited sphere.  They catch on as a way to describe something that few understand.  At their best they are shortcuts to understanding, at their worst and most common they are a way to circumvent understanding, and to linguistically thump one’s chest.   They go from being a sword to cut through the fogginess of understanding to a shield to protect the user from actually having to embrace and understand the concept.

Everyone uses buzzwords, unfortunately.

One of my mantras is If I can’t explain it in plain English then I myself don’t understand it.  It serves me well in explaining technical things to people, and converting their normal English questions, desires and requests into the technical so they can be executed.  It also helps me to understand and be understood regarding how time energy and resources are a part of everyone’s life, and the millions of flavors of that.

The danger of buzzwords is many:

  • It pushes others away, intellectually.  It does this by making them feel like they are not in your circle or in the know, or causes them to feel dumb thereby making them less likely to connect.  It’s unlikely they are going to say “What’s a Razzmatazz?”
  •  It also, in the case of some perceptive individuals, causes them to believe that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, since you’re not stating it plainly.  A good portion of the population believes that those that use buzzwords just don’t know what they’re talking about.  And they are right.
  • It may also make them believe that you are so far into your own existence that you are devoid of empathy, that everything is just a sale to be shoved into your sales funnel.

I recently read a posting in which the first paragraph made my brain turn off.  It just slammed shut and said, “What is this nonsense you’re feeding me?”  I’ve changed it slightly to protect the innocent and confusing individual.

After over 18 years in the executive business and technology space, I am excited to share that I’ve stepped out of the corporate model to focus on helping many more companies by scaling my expertise through the consultancy channel.

Some of you read this and hear static – you just shut down and mentally click next.  Oh good, she’s doing a job thingy, moving on or something.  Click.  Next.

I’m sure a lot of you can read this and understand what she is saying, but your brain struggled to decode it and did one of three things –

  1. It glossed over it and got the gist – rendering it devoid of any emotional impact; and emotions help us store information.  This is why we so clearly remember stuff, even dumb stuff; because something emotional was happening at the time – good or bad.  This works on even a tiny level.
  2. Your brain spent the energy decoding it, and in spending that energy made a note that this is tiresome.  So when revisiting anything from this person (or company), you will be wary to really read comprehensively – you’ll just probably skim.  This works in meetings too.
  3. You decoded it and reflected on how difficult it was to decode it, which causes you to either pronounce this as out of your league  and shy away from this, or decide that you are just not ‘businessy’ enough making yourself put more effort into being more ‘businessy.’  Yeah, neither of those sound like fun to me either.

First, allow me to decode this:

After over 18 years in the executive business and technology space

After about 20 years [insert tangible thing that you did, that others would understand and feel they might benefit from it]  This person is in a space, but we don’t know what they do in this space.

I am excited to share that I’ve stepped out of the corporate model

I’m excited to leave.  Wait, hmmm, probably not the best thing to focus on.   Also, stepping out of a corporate model means you are stepping into a non corporate model.  I’m leaving big business, and I’m pretty damn happy about it.  Why?

to focus on helping many more companies

Ahh, you want to help more companies than you were unable to in that environment.  OK, this is good.  How will you do this?

by scaling my expertise through the consultancy channel.

Oh jeez.  Scaling.  Everyone uses that word, and everyone only uses it to mean one thing: scaling up.  No one ever is excited to scale down (the obvious exception would be the doctor that sees a zillion clients, but decides to help fewer patients, but spend more meaningful  time with them.  And yes, what a crazy universe that would be).

through the consultancy channel

I read that, by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, right?  Jaberwocky, stuff like that?  No?  No mirrors?  (in case you don’t feel like clicking the link it’s a reference to Through The Looking Glass.  Haha?  No?  Meh.)

So a consultancy channel means you are going to be a consultant?  And the way they do stuff is through their channel?  Ahh, ok.

So let me rewrite this.  I’ll need to flip it around so it’s in an active voice, translate it into English, and focus on the positive.

I’ve worked for almost 20 years in the corporate world helping businesses with technology.  Though I’ve enjoyed it immensely I have decided to change the way I help others.  I’m now a consultant helping clients directly; allowing me to reach even more in need of my help.  The more direct, personal connections I will be able to make is exciting to me.

Easier to read?  Less taxing?  No feelings of inadequacy or dread when reading?  You’re happy for her now?  Maybe even want to know her contact info?

The point of picking this apart was to demonstrate how bad buzzwords can be.  As someone with a foot in technology and a foot in coaching, I’m exposed to buzzwords on both sides.  Their use detracts from understanding of both the teacher and the learner.  When someone shuts down as detailed above, you lose a lot of comprehension – the information is actually stored differently. And it’s no fun.

Regardless of your sector –  finance, technology, consulting, medicine, construction – putting the effort into communicating in plain English* not only helps those you are communicating with, but helps you in the long run.

So, avoid the buzzwords.  You will embrace what you do on a deeper level and remove some stress, because you aren’t beholden to the words, but will instead take ownership of the concepts.


* Or whatever the language is that is being used by your team.

About Mark Bradford

Mark Bradford developed a system to achieve goals, manage your energy and understand and strengthen your path - it's Alchemy For Life. He writes, coaches and speaks on the subject. For more information, tips and tricks, like Mark Bradford on Facebook, follow Mark Bradford on Twitter. Schedule a 15 minute chat. Articles are posted regularly on AlchemyFor.Life, and LinkedIn.