An expert tends to think and speak in jargon.
A leader is an expert who can translate their thoughts and ideas in a simple way that resonates with others.
Simplicity is defined as freedom from complexity and absence of pretentiousness.
A skilled speaker strives for simplicity because it helps them communicate clearly and unambiguously. They consciously avoid complexity, jargon, and acronyms, knowing it clouds their message, bores their listeners, and generally makes them less effective.
The best analogy for verbal complexity is a garden overgrown with weeds. Weeds aren’t just undesirable; they’re deadly. They use all the resources in the soil and water, killing the plants you want to cultivate.
Complexity in communication works the same way. If your thoughts and ideas are wrapped up in jargon and $10 dollar words, people have to expend a lot of energy to uncover your point. Few are willing to put in the effort to decode what you are saying – and those who do have little energy left over for actually considering your idea.
When we enter the workforce, we’re surrounded by unfamiliar terms, acronyms, and clichés. Eventually, we understand it and it gradually creeps into our speech. Before we know it, we’re speaking in code that is only intelligible to a few.
When we try to communicate with anyone else, we struggle because:
- Conveying complex thoughts and ideas in a simple way is hard.
It takes a deep degree of expertise to explain a complex subject in simple terms. When we force ourselves out of the complex terminology, we often find a gap in our understanding. Winston Churchill was a brilliant military strategist. He was surrounded by and understood complexity but when he spoke, he distilled his message to its essence.
- We use industry jargon in a misguided attempt to build credibility.
Unfortunately, people are not so easily impressed. Some people like using a framework or model to organize their thoughts. They only run into trouble when they insist the audience use the framework or model, too. Bill Clinton is a good example of an academic star who is also a tremendously effective speaker. Had he insisted on speaking in a way only fellow Rhodes scholars understand, he would be an unknown today.
Making the effort to simplify and eliminating jargon is well worth the effort. When you simplify, you’ll find your effectiveness is increasing and people are more interested in what you have to say.
In closing, this scene from The Office is a great illustration of someone simplifying technical language to be more effective.