Jargon, the Key to Communicating and Sounding Smart

Because you don’t want to sound like an idiot.

Jargon is a weird thing. It’s something we all take for granted, but rarely ever focus on consciously in our lives. It’s a journal that we all add entries to over time, no matter what we’re working on. It’s a word that carries as much negative connotation for needlessness as it is fun to say — like shenanigans and neanderthal. Anyway. Where am I going with all of this?

Well I was recently pondering about why certain individuals sound smart and why certain individuals didn’t. Even though they clearly are just as smart and knowledgeable. Sure, you can easily chalk it up to some people cultivating their communication skills through either writing, speaking, etc. as something they’ve focused on at an early age, but that isn’t the only aspect of how this happens because it’s something that anyone can do. Just talk to anysocially awkward programmers about what they’re working on and they clearly sound smart about it. So what gives? What makes this possible?

One word. Jargon.

Now the word itself carries a lot of negative connotation, especially when it’s abused in marketing with needless buzzwords or used as a legal wordplay to confuse the heck out of humans reading it. On the flip side, when jargon is used appropriately, this shorthand helps anyone communicate complex nuanced ideas and change how people perceive you. Here are some of the benefits in said perception:

  • using jargon signifies that you need shortcuts to concisely communicate an idea
  • using jargon signifies that you’ve deconstructed your subject to the point that you understand how something works
  • using jargon signifies that you have more than a passing interest in the topic

So when someone asks you about your opinion about a story — whether in movie, television, book, food, etc. form — ask yourself, do you have the vocabulary to to properly communicate it? Or when you’re convincing people in that interview to get hired, do you sound like you know what you’re talking about? If you don’t, you probably sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

At this point, you might tell me that you watch a ton of movies or that you work really hard at what you do. You’re definitely a movie-expert or an expert in your field. However, unless people can see the output of anything you create, they won’t know that you’re an expert from just talking to you. This makes people feel that you only have casual or passive interest of whatever you’re trying to describe. And that is perfectly okay. Being a couch potato is great and why the heck do you need to be a chef to appreciate food? But if you’re on the other side of the fence and you want to be that detail-orientated or technical about whatever you have interests in, you should really try communicating it properly. An easy way is to start reading or listening to experts and critics in your field of study, interest, or hobby. They are constantly deconstructing, teaching, and communicating what makes something the way it is.

Yeah, we’re dealing with this unfortunately.

So, if you want to be more successful at accomplishing:

  • convincing people you know what you’re talking about instead of people looking at you incredulously (key for job interviews for younger readers who see this post)
  • remembering more about the subjects you like or work a lot on
  • analyzing ideas under a useful microscope
  • logically walking someone else through your stance and perhaps persuading them
  • articulating why you even like something

Then consider learning the vocabulary of what you’re talking about — the jargon. Otherwise you’ll always be stuck with things, stuff, and whatever forever.

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