Jargon and Inclusion

Anthropomorphic provable truth.

Anybody know what this means?

Good, I’m very pleased there is only a small group of you out there.

I came across this term on an open forum based on healthy lifestyles. It was thrown in like: “nice weather today and the anthropomorphic provable truth is that unless it changes it will stay that way.”

I’ll give you the meaning later.

It raised in me an ire which is aroused whenever jargon is used to exclude others or flex subject specific knowledge/muscle.

In effect it is the epitome of poor communication (unless talking to those who you know absolutely understand the meaning of terms like these – and then I would ask – are you sure they do?).

I was recently in a social group of 5 men, 3 of them were trying to subtly one-up each other. Within 10 minutes I heard the use of at least 25 industry specific terms of no relevance to the other 2 of us, though absolutely meant for our ears as well. [pullquote]I never had a chance to feel excluded, I was ‘embraced’ by his humility and care.[/pullquote]

I can’t remember any of the actual discussion.

Inclusion is about meeting, caring, considering, sharing and giving up your own self importance.

The best example of inclusion I ever had was when I was late arriving to a large meeting of people and Sir Paul Reeves, who didn’t know me from a bar of soap, excused himself from the group he was holding court to and stepped out to introduce himself to me!

I was the minnow, he the master.

Yet he tipped the usual model on its head.

I felt included because of his selflessness. I never had a chance to feel excluded, I was ‘embraced’ by his humility and care.

Because of that experience I now practice two things in meeting people.

    1. If I am the ‘senior’, or a ‘senior’, in a room it is my responsibility to lead introductions and too embrace those present, particularly the new.
    2. If I am in a discussion with people I hardly know, all jargon is parked, and the conversation is kept pure and simple.

As a result I feel more secure in myself and I know ‘they’ do as well.

…And that is the Anthropomorphic provable truth.

Which is: “A Truth that we as humans have come to and can prove by our own means; i.e. scientific conclusions”

Actually I’m not sure now that it is an APT.

I (don't) hear you.

Ever caught yourself in the company of someone who is talking to you and suddenly realised you haven’t heard, much less understood anything they have said to you?

I developed this unwanted art as a teenager in the company of my grandparents who I visited regularly. All I can say now is I did only 5% of the job I could, I tuned out to 90% of the conversation.

When you have a communication disconnect you are either wasting their time or they are wasting yours. You have two basic choices:

  • Wake up and engage with sincerity or
  • Exit.

In both cases you should also apologise for your disinterest.

I can hear squeals of horror (from those of you still listening) at the last suggestion – apologising, eek.! As a more constructive and more easily applied solution let’s look at some of the things you can do to avoid getting in this situation in the first place:

Keep good company. Avoid people or situations that bore you, people who just say the same thing over and over, negative people, and people guilty of too many “I” statements.

Give them time.
Ensure you have time for the conversations you have. If someone wants to talk to you about something ‘important’ make the time you spend important as well – even if it means setting a later date or time to hold the discussion.

Don’t anticipate a reply. We all know this trap – your mind whirrs with the answer when you haven’t even heard out the problem or the proposal. Well stop it now. No now. Stop it!! This is so unproductive, unless the conversation really is going over old ground. Are you in this conversation or not?

Create empty space.
Strong conversation actually has gaps – spaces where each party is considering what has just been delivered. If the dialogue sounds more like a machine gun then someone ain’t listening properly, it’s an argument not a discussion.

As a final word for those delivering a message – always make sure you have the other person’s attention:

  • Is this a good time to talk?
  • Can you spare me 5 minutes of your time for me to outline my proposal?
  • Can we make a time to discuss this new project?

Would be typical entree’s for focussed and constructive discussion.

Thanks for listening.

Remov ng the I

I - would not do this!!
A discipline which has been great about blogging has been removing the “I” from my posts. Not the word I, but “I statements”; statements about me.

This blog is about my thoughts, not ‘about me’.

I have often cut material from posts because it was detail about me and was not critical to the message.

Cutting out “I” made the posts stronger and more relevant to the recipient.

Whether I have done this or done that is never the point.

Readers can reasonably assume that I have done, tried or observed everything that I write about. Beating my chest about how well, or otherwise, I did is not of value in creating learning or engaging dialogue with my readership.

It’s OK to be confident but not arrogant. The distinction is an important one.

I hope these posts show confidence and courage not arrogance and neediness.

Yet in the organisational domain, and many social settings “I” is a huge component (and the first sign to have me looking for another conversation). Often the introduction is of no relevance to the topic and under some other guise:

    I was thinking about this when on my flight to Zurich the other day… (I fly internationally you know)

    When I was with ‘important person’ last week… (Understand that by inference I am an important person too)

    Yes service is terrible, the guys at the Audi garage couldn’t even call me back…(Did you know I have an Audi?)

    What did you do for the holiday weekend? (Just wait until I tell you about mine…)

I’m sure you get the drift.

It is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to promote yourself. Often what you achieve is to demote others. They perceive you as full of self importance or ignoring of their comment. And especially entertaining to observe in small groups is the “mines bigger than yours” extension of these conversations – “Oh yes my flight to ‘terribly important place’ was delayed too…”

So think about your “I statements”.

Hold them back.

Try leaving the world to decide for itself whether or not you are nice, important, well travelled, well-heeled, clever, well connected etc.

I predict your success at removing “I statements” will lead to (for starters):

  • More constructive conversations
  • People being more willing to share with you
  • Your personal trust and respect increasing
  • You seeing more goodness and greatness in others

I’ll be off now.

Debate or dialogue

I Win!!!!

I’ve been there; the victorious debating team bludgeoning the opposition to death.

Then I stopped. What was the point in being able to win an argument from either side?

Of course there are some obvious occupations in which this comes in handy: lawyers, politicians, debt collectors and parents come to mind!

Many people continue to get better at this sort of verbal warfare long after college, and many of those become leaders and senior managers because they can win any argument, beat anybody down and defend the indefensible.

I wish I was joking. I’m not. And I don’t mean to sound bitter, I’ve been guilty myself (some might say even now).

I say this, because I feel strongly, debating is the wrong process to achieve a constructive way forward.

It’s win – lose, defend your position (right or wrong), destroy the opposition (Though re-living it, what fun that was as a teenager!).

Listen next time you reason someone into oblivion. What did it achieve? How did it help or build anything?

What can we do instead?

My pet concept is a school debating programme called ‘The constructive dialogue’. Where each party presents their case, then each side has to find ways to agree with the other side . Instead of Retort it’s Re-think. This would really get right brains flying.

In the work setting:

Relax you don’t need to be right. In fact there are many benefits in not winning.

Listen without preparing an answer. You’ll seem wiser and the other person will notice you have listened.

Agree. It doesn’t hurt. This doesn’t mean you need to provide the solution.

The magic paradox. A legal journal recently proposed this – rephrase what you have just been told or seen expressed and close it with a statement where they agree with you – like: “I expect you feel that the company hasn’t paid enough attention to its community, is that right?” What is ‘magic’ is the shift in demeanour of those with the issue, the instant they hear you understand them and that they agree with what you have said. (Which doesn’t mean you agree with them).

Close your mouth (last resort).

Read any publication by Peter Senge

What suggestions do you have?

How prevalent is the ‘debating syndrome’ in your work environment?

Can you begin to deactivate it?

Blah blah…important bit….blah blah.

How clearly and succinctly do you get your message across?

I’ve been pondering this quite a lot lately.

Partly this has been driven by the recurrence of sound bites coming from Leaders and Politicians alike and partly because of social media expert Jason Falls observation that Twitter has the very clear upside that you need to sell your compelling message in 160 characters.

Here’s an example of 160 characters:

This post aims to challenge leaders to compact their core messages to increase the clarity and impact. Jason Fall uses the term incise-full. Can you do it? Try.


• If all important staff announcements were limited to two tweets from the CEO. (78)
• If all meetings had to have a purpose and desired outcome clearly stated in one tweet. (87)
• If participants were to be limited to ten tweets per meeting. (61)
• If any explanation given was limited to three tweets. (53)
• If project funding requests were limited to ten tweets. (55)
• Phone calls – 8 tweets. I would happily survive with 2 and often do (coaching aside)! (87 – it was 96 but I saved 9 by deleting ‘Actually’ at the start of the second sentence) (+ 91)
• All delegated tasks were limited to three tweets – the task, the time frame, the resources. (91)

It sounds preposterous at first, but personally I think this could be done, and often to great benefit.

Listen out for the next time you justify or explain something to somebody.

How much was padding, sound bites and fluff?

Are you sure your audience heard what you needed them to hear?

How much wasted time in wasted words?

Let me know if you take up the challenge…

There, 284 words my least yet. (1627)

Open Door Policy

How many times have you heard a manager say they have an open door policy?

Though not as much of the management lexicon as it used to be it is still commonly heard.

I expect the reduction in use is partly due to the open plan environment, and partly due to the sanctimony it received by many who claimed it.

I was one of those ‘called out’ by my staff some years ago – they acknowledged my door was open physically but felt that was as far as it went.

It was such a great lesson.

“Have I ever seen an open door policy?”


Obviously everybody should know what is required? Right?

I expect the reality is otherwise.

Wikipedia and other links delivered pretty much what I expected – boring, stiff, follow the rules, and confined to managing ‘the event’.

How dull.

Here’s my take -Part 1:

  • Firstly you don’t need a door. Metaphorically anyone can close a door to communication whether they have a door or not. So let’s change the term to Open Policy.
  • Secondly it shouldn’t be a policy, it should be a way of life. So now we have Open.

Now we can get to work.

Here’s my take on Open:

  • You work here, let’s talk.
  • If I am busy presently I’ll tell you but not push you away without scheduling a time or following through ASAP.
  • I’m your boss’s boss. No problem, let’s talk, I won’t undermine them, but I need to understand why you are wanting to talk to me.
  • I’ll find some way to show I can’t be disturbed right now.
  • You want to waste my time, I won’t let you.
  • I promise I won’t waste your time.
  • I promise I won’t make any promises I won’t keep.
  • I’ll use my professional discretion in terms of what stays here and what moves on.
  • I’ll thank you, you’ll hopefully thank me.
  • I’m authentic, try me.

Any questions?