Communication and Professional Language

Decisions_decisionsContributed by Julrica Ellington   I love language; the written word especially,  it is a great method of expression that anyone can use to articulate thoughts especially when seeking a result, an answer or feedback. 

When I first began in corporate America with Cingular Wireless as a Revenue Assurance Manager, one thing I noticed, besides the realization that I never wanted to manage people again, was the “language” of my department. It was really no language at all, but a mere reduction to acronyms, terminology and jargon.  It wasn’t English, it was proprietary tech speak and no one else spoke it but us.  I noticed each department, division, floor and project group had its own “language” and the only cross-verbiage that occurred is when an issue from one group was escalated to another. Each department had to learn the other department’s terminology in reference to the problem.  While I longed for the simplicity of the English language, I thought, “This is how challenging it can be when trying to converse with a co-worker where there is no foundational standard for language in the workplace.  You’d have to begin with an agreement of the terms before you could even speak!”

This experience helped me to appreciate the purpose of what I’ve come to know as “Professional Language”, the primary language base used in the workplace.  The standards set for internal and external customer service and how they reverberate with lessons from childhood: “Say please and thank you”.  “May I…?” is asking permission.  “Can I….?” denotes a request of ability.  Simple lessons that corporate America has come to nearly legislate in order to form a cohesive work culture that supports a massive diversity from around the world.

When I was young, I had a speech impediment.  I stuttered.  I was told it was due to my 4 older brothers tickling me so much that I began to talk like I laughed.  To nip this in the bud (and get me to stop cursing in frustration for my inability to communicate), I was sentenced to many, many years of Phonetics training, reading aloud and SRA workbooks for spelling, comprehension and speed reading.   Speed reading – that was the one that got me as I got older.  Why am I in a hurry to read any material? Whether it is for work or leisure, in order to savor the moments, I slowed down reading.  I found this enabled my mind to develop mental pictures of what I read.  This is how I developed what I didn’t get from these exercises: understanding the message and the intentional use of various vernaculars.

I concluded that the only reason to “talk” is to convey an idea, a funny story, articulate a feeling or the pathways you took to get to a certain feeling or conclusion.  It is simply to exchange (hopefully) useful information about a subject or yourself; thus, the tie in to Professional Language and its necessary application in the workplace.  With so many backgrounds, histories, languages, and the complicated sometimes convoluted mix of “feelings” there needed to be a base from which everyone could operate in order to have a basic understanding or at least be able to comprehend intended meanings, devoid of personal attack or offense.  Professional Language teaches us to stick to the facts, and communicate your needs, current understandings and expectations with clarity.

As this skill will translate into real life scenarios outside of the workplace, Professional Language should be a set of courses required before entering the workforce at any level; as necessary as Microsoft Office certification.  In this way, everyone has a base set of communication tools at their disposal with which to begin to build occupational success while playing a key part in the participating and maintaining a cohesive working environment.

The moral of this short story?  Slow down and communicate.  Give those whom you work with the opportunity to understand your position, especially in the office environment, where this skill’s reward will be most prevalent.



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