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

Our attempts at conveying a message stem from our personal understanding or experience, utilize the language we’ve always used.

Understandable. After all, we talk about what we care about, and use the vocabulary and tools with which we are most comfortable.

The only problem is those times our efforts fail to connect. Never mind, fail to motivate.

When Words Don’t Work

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

“Every group has one,” she suggested — 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 inevitably sneaks into our everyday vocabulary.

As the conversation continued, I kept nodding in agreement. We all know the type; oblivious to evidence that the mark is being missed, a would-be messenger presses on with the awareness of a bull-in-a-china-closet — throwing around his language…telling us why we should buy his story. We’ve all been there.

“We’ve all done it — without respect to whether it builds a bridge or a barrier.”

Uh oh. Now she was getting personal.

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.

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 — 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. It isn’t easy; but here are three initial steps:

  • Remember that the best conversations may not revolve around you — even when it comes to business development and sales, productive conversations focus on your target;
  • Listen intentionally — this is how we learn what might actually connect with the target;
  • Whenever possible, eploy the language of the target instead of the language of your club — few things say “I want to connect with you” with more clarity.

But now we’re back to the issue of Old Dogs. Most of us don’t learn quickly, do we?

Almost all of us 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.

And our language.

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

Far too often, when I have the opportunity to participate in a conversation — albeit with the best of intentions — it is all about me, framed in the language of my club — my experiences, 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 audience cares about, and the language necessary to connect with those concerns.

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