Talk short. Talk simple.
Corporate speak is a killer. Corporate speak is nonsensical complication of a concept, made to make the speaker or writer seem smart. I’m both a perpetrator and a victim of corporate speak. I think there is a hierarchy of corporate communication you get to hear — the higher you go, the more complicated it will be…
The reason corporate speak exists is not only to make speaker seem smart, but also to avoid direct communication. You see, confrontation scares the corporate folks. They are afraid of crossing the line, of unintentionally hurting the other part.
And that is a massive issue for PMs. Corporate speak has trickled into startups — as more and more folks from the corporate machine enter the startup world, they bring with them, apart from their experience, a bag full of corporate jargon. Which inevitably, everyone has to learn — just to keep up with them.
As PMs, our first job is to ensure we simplify complexities. That means, wherever there are jargons, we have to translate it to layman speak. However, those efforts are being constantly subdued. Partly due to our inability to stand-strong in the face of socially accepted complexity & fear of faux pas, and partly due to the organization culture.
I came across this gem of an article that sent me down a rabbit hole of plain-speak:
Being plainspoken is speaking the truth from a place of care and authenticity. It accounts for what is heard, not just what is said. It is about the listener, not the speaker. When you speak plainly, you should do so for those in the audience, not for the one at the podium.
All of us have known people who say, “I am blunt. I just say what I am thinking.” Many times, these individuals are just using the guise of being honest to hurt other people. When someone is blunt, they are speaking to live up to their perceived image of themselves: the person who says it like it is, come what may. But they are rarely doing it with the recipient in mind.
- Deb Liu (The Importance of Being Plainspoken)
On the last paragraph, my only contention is that it is up to you to interpret if the speaker is being blunt or just plain-speaking.
I intend to combat this by:
- Adding an editorial step in my communication to remove complex phrases like “boil the ocean”, “buy-in” etc. (detailed list here)
- Be direct with my team. Being plainspoken, as the author of this article writes, is done out of kindness and a genuine care of the person being spoken to…
- Welcome ‘plainspeak’ from others. Encourage it even.
We, as PMs, are also responsible for affecting a culture change — no matter how small our area of impact may be… as folks with influence, we should use it to better the people around us. Let’s hope 2022 is a year where we start with this change!
Thank you for reading.