I blogged before about how I had no problem with jargon. Jargon, that is, that relates to dogs. That was because I was getting a Labrador puppy and I was keen to find out all I could from the experts. And I argued how my view on dog jargon was likely to be different from the view of someone who was getting an insurance policy or a pension plan.
Well I’ve had the dog for a couple of months now. Quite hard work. Bit like having a toddler, but with sharp teeth and no nappies. We’re doing puppy training, which is really helping. It should be called owner training, though, because it’s not reasonable to expect the dog to learn English, so you have to learn Dog.
That means using physical handling and rewards, and associating those with hand signals and – eventually – vocal sounds or words.
When the slightly scary training lady told us this, it immediately reminded me of that cardinal rule of effective communication – talk in a way that means something to your audience.
If you’re trying to interest young employees in the idea of a pension plan, don’t show them pictures of old people. Especially those pictures of old people with shiny dentures and comfortable sweaters. That might be what retirement means to you, but it won’t resonate with your audience. Show them pictures of things they relate to.
If you’re trying to keep hold of a long-standing customer who’s cross about something you’ve done, don’t tell them what a great company you are and how everyone else is really satisfied with you. That might be how you like to talk about your company, but it doesn’t address the customer’s issue. Say sorry. Explain yourself. And fix it.
I don’t want to push the analogy too far, as there are an extremely large number of ways in which customers and dogs are entirely different. But as I continue trying to get my head around how to communicate with my dog, I find it useful to remember that my everyday methods of communicating with my own species are not the place to start.
It doesn’t matter how many times you say something, if you’re using your own language instead of the customer’s, they’re unlikely to take any notice.