When it comes to the challenges of communicating — telling a story, marketing a practice, stating a case — old dogs often wear blinders. Exhibit A: Yours Truly.

A dear friend was talking about the prevalence of a practice she referred to as speaking in the language of a club. As she spoke, I was probably nodding in complete agreement, imagining I knew exactly what she was talking about.

Every group has one — a lingua franca — a set of words, terms, acronyms and phrases that, over time, morph into a cultural shorthand for everyone in-the-know.

There is an upside when it comes to connecting with “members of the club.” But the downside is that the language, including those aspects that are unique to the identity of the group, inevitably sneak into our everyday vocabulary.

As my friend continues, I’m still nodding in agreement. I have often climbed into the pulpit to announce the problems of a message that utilizes our language and is all about us — without respect to whether it builds a bridge or a barrier.

And then my friend (unintentionally, I’m sure) got personal.

She had moved from a discussion about business to speaking of those everyday conversations — the personal ones over coffee, in the break room or hallway, at lunch and networking events, during the kids’ softball games.

I was still nodding; but with less exuberance. The conversation was causing me to think about moments, even among friends, when the topics I choose and the language I use actually limit communication. Maybe even build barriers.

Now — finally — I was hearing what she was saying with different ears.

Multiple times every single day most of us have golden opportunities to build or strengthen the bridge that enables on-going conversation. This is the fabric of relationship we’re talking about — whether in business, or in a personal context.

Eliminate The Club–Speak

Getting the most out of opportunities to connect, not to mention deepening existing relationship, means eliminating the club-speak from our interactions. And here are three initial steps:

  • Remember that, in the ear of almost anyone with whom you wish to connect, the best conversations probably do not revolve around you;
  • Listen intentionally — to identify what your target cares about;
  • Whenever possible, use the language of your target instead of the language of your group — few things say “this is all about you” with more clarity.

With almost any target, there is no message that will resonates more.

But Now We’re Back To The Issue With Old Dogs

We rarely learn quickly, do we?

We are most inclined to talk about what we know and care about — what we do, and how we do it. We easily gravitate to our expertise. Our interests. Our causes. Our point of view.

Translation: we sound like every other dog on the block.

Far too often, when I have the opportunity to drive a conversation — albeit with the best of intentions — it is all about me, framed in the language of my own personal interests and concerns. As a result, countless opportunities to build a bridge have been lost.

On the other hand, when I consider the best connectors and communicators I know — whether in business or personal relationships — there is one commonality: their ability to connect is based on a relentless focus on what the target cares about.

If you see me, I’ll be trying to get the blinders off. And to my friend, thanks for the reminder.