“We’re done now,” to quote Big Shaq of the famed ‘Man’s not hot’ hit song. We’re done now with elections and the tension therefrom. But we’re not done with learning from the happenings. Here’s the last lesson; one from the Supreme Court proceedings on how jargon is opaque, a barrier to communication, and how best to avoid it. Yes, your use of jargon loses you sales.. As it did all the arguments by counsel for the first petitioner.
What jargon is and why it should be avoided
Yes, that’s jargon right there. And if I don’t spell it out you’d likely zone out, so here goes. Counsel for the first petitioner (aka lawyers for Raila), busied themselves with trying to prove a fatally flawed process; to prove, as lawyer Willis Otieno chimed, that the IEBC might as well have played, “Inky, pinky, ponky…” to decide the winner instead of “bungle the billion shillings worth Presidential Elections”. His counterpart Phillip Murgor went full mode jargon with technical terms like jpeg, cvs, pdf, and hacking. Plenty technical IT language was used. And most Kenyans were lost or, as was later said, left in shock and awe, which incidentally, experts say was the lawyers’ intention in the first place.
Why it is important to simplify your language
So, anyway, Justice Smokin Wanjala sought clarity without using any jargon. Notice how he avoids using the words jpeg, hack, transmit, etc. “If I understand this correctly, the filled original Form 34A leaves the polling station to go to the national tallying centre by road, let’s say, for ease of understanding. Its image leaves to go to the same destination but this time by air.
Somewhere along the way, in mid-air, the image is captured. And then all sorts of things are done, before it is re-uploaded. Which means therefore, if you go to that captured image, which has been re-uploaded, you will find, different content from what it had at the polling station. So to determine whether that has actually taken place, you would have to go now to the tallying centre, and locate that one that left by road, and compare. Is it possible that, that capturing in mid-air, also somehow, magically, changes the content of the one that left by road?”
Using jargon loses sales
With that simplified explanation, not only did the lost Kenyans find their way, there was no coming back from that one for the Raila legal team (aka counsel for the petitioners). The explanation (sale) was so simplified all the shock and awe (tactics intended to intimidate) just went out the window. This is why it is desirable to avoid the use of jargon when selling. Customers understand you; they ‘get it’. Your use of jargon could lose you sales as customers don’t get it. Read how here
Why is jargon important, how an example demystifies it and using ‘what this means’
Now then. What should you use instead of jargon? Listen to Eric Gumbo, one of the lawyers for the IEBC, demystify “secured and double layered with firewall” and “encryption of the image of Form 34A during transmission.” First off, stating these as jargon, was important to establish the technical position and fact. Then knowing he wasn’t getting through to the judges, he started with, “If I was to use an example, if it was to be a water pipe, and it is to be encrypted, it means if you broke into that water pipe, and because we all know that the chemical formula of water is H2O, you’ll get your hydrogen on one side and your oxygen on one side. It then means you won’t make sense of that water that you are looking for.” They got it. Using jargon loses sales; an example mitigates this risk.
Then there was the colourful example to illustrate authorized access as opposed to hacking, “A plumber who is in your bathroom when you’re showering after fixing your shower is no longer a plumber, he is a sexual offender and should be reported.”
The foregoing examples are what to avoid jargon means.
Avoid using jargon with customers; using jargon loses sales
Shock and awe, I’m told, is a strategy in law when you have no substance to back your claims. As Dr. Duncan Ojwang (Dean, School of Law at Africa Nazarene University) put it on an interview on KTN, “In law we are taught that If you don’t have facts hammer the law,if you don’t have the law, hammer the table”
However, this use if jargon to shock and awe is not advisable when selling. Eliminate it. Incidentally, turns out even in law, it can backfire spectacularly when your audience sees through it. As did the judges, as captured in their unanimous pronouncement (sorry, verdict), read out by the Chief Justice Martha Koome. “Sensational as the arguments were, there was no credible evidence to prove it happened; nothing to back the claims. We were taken us on a wild goose chase that yielded nothing of value. The claim was just another red herring. So the court dismissed it as hot air.”
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