Speak Like a 10 Year Old

Innovate.  Multi-dimensional.  Dynamic.  SME.  Synergy.  Leverage.  Big Data.

What do these words have in common?  They are all buzz words in the corporate world.  If you were to tell your undergrad self that you speak using this language, you would’ve punched yourself in the face.  There is, of course, a different culture in Corporate America and with that culture are norms and a different vocabulary.  While this vocabulary, including the previously mentioned buzz words, may be the norm that does not mean it is a requirement to speak in this manner.  Here is why you should avoid using these buzz words:

  1. You are forcing yourself to speak like this to “fit in.”  You think you need to speak in a certain manner in order to be accepted.  In reality, you do not.  If you do not speak using these buzz words and instead speak like a normal, everyday person people will not think any differently about you
  2. Who are you trying to impress?  Similar to point 1, who are you showing off for?  If you’re trying to impress your manager by using buzz words, stop.  They can see right through that.  It looks like you’re trying way too hard to sound smarter than you really are
  3. You don’t really know what they mean.  I am guilty of this, but I have never looked up the word “synergy” in the dictionary until just now, but I have used it many times in meetings.  If you do not know what a word means, you shouldn’t use it!  Stick to language that you are comfortable with using because you are confident in your ability to understand and interpret the language.  By the way, “synergy,” according to dictionary.com means: “the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.”
  4. They get in the way of your audience understanding your point.  These buzz words are filler words, for the most part.  People use them to sound smart, despite not knowing their meaning or how to properly use them.  Because of this, it adds clutter to your sentences and makes it more challenging for the audience to understand the most important thing you’re talking about

Now that you know why you should avoid these buzz words, you need something to fill the void.  You’ve been using these words for years and no longer have anything to say or how to communicate without them!  Here are a few ideas:

  • Innovate -> Come up with new ideas
  • Multi-dimensional -> Used/valid/impactful in different ways
  • Dynamic -> Change or adjust
  • SME -> For those that don’t know, SME means “Subject Matter Expert.”  Just say “expert” or “[name] is the best person to talk to about the topic”
  • Synergy -> Working together
  • Leverage -> Take advantage of
  • Big data -> Data

Corporate America has designed this vocabulary for people to use and that other people understand.  So why should you speak like a 10 year old?  Because 10 year olds do not have over-complicated vocabularies.  They speak in simple, easy to understand phrases.  There is something eloquent about the way a 10 year old communicates because it is so basic.  Plus, if you were to explain a challenging marketing strategy to a 10 year old, you’d need to do so in the most basic of language so they understand it.  If you explained that same strategy using industry terms, they would not know what you were talking about.  Consider this example:

Industry Language: We are going to connect to our target audience through a multi-dimensional marketing strategy that leverages a user’s location to promote our product.

Basic Language: We are going to talk to people interested in our product in different ways based on where that person is located to let them know about our product.

The industry language example sounds so vague and ridiculous – like you’re trying too hard to fit these buzz words into a sentence.  The basic language example is elementary and easy to understand.

Being able to state a strategy in the most simple of language shows that you really understand the strategy and can communicate it to anyone so they can quickly and easily understand it.  If you use complicated vocabulary, you are interfering with someone’s ability to comprehend the topic.  Speak simply and allow your audience to quickly know what you’re talking about.

Push back on corporate buzz words.  Take it upon yourself to stop using them and speak in a simple, easy to understand language.  Challenge yourself to use the vocabulary you had when you were 10 years old.  It may feel weird, but you will push yourself to simplify and use clearer language.  Your co-workers will appreciate it, too!

Thought Starters

  • How many times a day do you use corporate buzz words?
  • How can you revise your written communication to use the vocabulary of a 10 year old?