You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don't trust enough.

~ Frank Crane ~

Code Busting: Who You Gonna Call?

September 10th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 11 secs

Speaking in code can get very confusing.

Talk about talking in code! “Let’s scaffold these ideas and then jigsaw them before they impact on the final analysis.” Got that? Me too.

We are drowning in jargon! Leastways, it seems that way. Who hasn’t thought twice about speaking to someone lest they launch into computer code? Or perhaps you’ve avoided chatting with that lass because she only speaks the gobbledygook of her pet subject?

You might think I’m exaggerating. But consider this. What passes for legitimate dialogue in many workplaces, organizations, and areas of learning has now morphed into obscure codes that are so highly specific outsiders are frequently unable to make neither head nor tail of them.

Church communication is a classic example. Once you’ve been washed and slayed, don’t worry, someone will undertake for you (and here’s me thinking that the Christian life was about a relationship with the Creator).

With ever more obscure codes to learn language is becoming increasingly fragmented. But is it necessary? And what’s driving this division?

Three factors seem to be promoting jargon:

  1. The desire to differentiate is driving the use of code. Whether people live in Brooklyn or Bicheno, the desire to identify as a separate tribe is strong. Eventually this division falters as situations change, trends shift, or folk simply grow up. But occasionally, code only understood by those in the know can take on a life of its own. Sometimes, it can even get enough traction to turn mainstream.
  2. Ego also promotes the use of codes. Those desiring to impress their group use jargon heavily to assert power, reinforce group identity and promote exclusion (if you don’t know the code then you need to submit to learning it, or risk rejection).
  3. Then there’s also the need to express ideas that only make sense with a lot of prior knowledge. Photographic enthusiasts, for example, speak the code of their field as a kind of shorthand for all the complicated concepts that need to be covered to address issues related to their area. So, it makes sense to use quick code to communicate effectively.

So where does that leave us? Are we witnessing communication imploding in slow motion, thanks to the growing use of code? Or, is the miscommunication and confusion of jargon largely irrelevant?

Thankfully, mainstream communication appreciates diversity. So there’s room for variety in our society and even space to celebrate it. But, when codes become too exclusive, there’s a potentially negative effect. Which is why jargon busting is so worthwhile, at least once in a while.

Wherever people are deliberately made to feel inferior or isolated due to jargon, we ought to stand up for regular speech. If they are serious about being all things to all men, churches, and other community-based groups should cut code out completely.

Jargon and the confusion it causes is a strong reminder that good communication is about quality, not complexity, or clichés. So, if you’re involved in an organization deeply mired in a coded communication rut, now is the time to bust some jargon. Just speak up, lest we all get totally lost in a scaffolded rubric of confusion.




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