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Obscurity doesn’t earn you respect

Updated: Jul 10, 2018

Doctors might “sound” smart when they use fancy medical terms, but it often comes at the expense of their bedside manner. At the end of the day, the patient just wants to know if they’re going to be ok and what they have to do.

A lawyer that cites some obscure citation or technical term may “impress” their client, but it doesn’t really help: they’ve already been hired for the process.

So if you use technical terms with your client or customer, you’re keeping a distance between you and them. You may feel this establishes you as the professional and forces them to trust you.

Tip: try English. Conversational, simple words.

Don’t say user. That’s what we call heroin addicts. Say people. Don’t say “problem” – say “issue” – you don’t want them to associate you with the word problem on a regular basis. Don’t say adapter, converter, extender, transcoder, etc. Just say “plug” or “cable” or “the thing that makes it work”. Avoid “kernel panic”, “BSOD” – just say “issue” or “error which is not your fault” Partition? That’s for cubicles. Say organize. Defragment? That’s tech talk. Say “clean up” or “tune up” – use phrases that people already know, they’ll relate better to you. “How many clients on the network?” – HUH? “How many people do you have using computers?” Nodes? They don’t know nodes. DHCP, NAT, IP, packets, etc. Nuh uh. “Parts of your network” ISP -don’t use TLA’s (three letter acronyms) – “The company that provides your internet service.”

Sure, they may know some of the terms. But resolving computer issues is not about technical pissing contests. It’s about establishing trust, rapport, and making people understand what’s happening. They’ll certainly blame you less, and they will appreciate being spoken to in a normal way, not in a condescending way. If there’s one technically savvy person and one non-tech person in the room, lower the tech jargon to the lowest level person.


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