Why Foreign Terms and Acronyms Repel Rather Than Attract

Remember your first week at a new job?

As you anxiously clocked in for the first few times, your gaze likely did not stay still. You nervously looked side to side, to others for approval of every small step you made toward the shared goal. You didn’t know what was important to those around you, and what was not worth focusing too much on. You didn’t know the habits of your new colleagues, and you didn’t know whether the experience behind your input was enough to justify speaking up in meetings.

You likely remained quieter than usual in those first few days, and you likely tried to just soak it all in. As you did, the documents attached in emails still looked intimidating; even on the second, third, fourth day. The terminology and verbiage used likely left you feeling small. As you read through and attempted to learn as much as possible, your levels of anxiety likely peaked prior to making their way back to normal levels.

As you enter new domains in life, you’ll be met with individuals who’ve been there for a while. They now speak in a different language than you do, and are rather quick in their communications back and forth. They use acronyms, and words you’ve never used before, and they seldom do a good job of lowering the levels of anxiety that newcomers enter into their world with.

This article is about language that’s specific to your field of expertise.

It aims to motivate you to be sensitive to the ones who don’t yet know all the acronyms and sayings of what you’ve practiced for so long. To you, the language that you use may now be second nature. To them, these very simple, useful, words and acronyms likely make them feel insignificant and uninformed.


The Terms Aren’t Scary, Not Knowing Where to Start Is

“Mike, are you able to perform a SWOT analysis in relation to what we discussed at the 9:00 am meeting?”

“Hey, have you had a chance to analyze our SEO progress in May?”

“I think we’re forgetting to remain focused on our ROI in the discussion about these options…”


The acronyms above are very simple to follow once you know what they represent:

  • Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Return on Investment

To a newcomer who doesn’t yet know their meaning however, these acronyms can send them down a spiral of self doubt. These acronyms are simple in their meaning, and are nothing close to intimidating to learn. However, should someone use a very simple acronym in conversation with you that you’ve never heard before, you’d likely assume the worst.

You’d tend to assume that those acronyms are some very complicated jargon that only experts use. Since you aren’t yet educated on what they mean, you’d understand yourself to not be an expert. Some, would even begin to think they don’t belong, and might feel a diminished sense of worth in the environment they’re in.

The acronyms and terms that we don’t yet know, seem to exaggerate our anxieties around not being an integral part of a new a team. Even though they’re often simple in their meaning, they perpetuate our worries, and add an unneeded barrier which we don’t yet know how to climb over.

When using acronyms and special terms in the professional setting, try your best to always ensure that everyone in the room knows what those acronyms and terms mean. Ensure to check in with those who are new to the conversation that you’re used to having, and whether they’re following what you’re saying.

This habit will save your dialogue, presentations, and meetings when you find yourself in a room with important people from different domains. Your practice with subordinates and newcomers in this regard, will ensure that people more important than yourself also know what you’re talking about when you use special terms and acronyms.

When you educate them on the meaning of certain acronyms and terms, their perception of how simple those terms and acronyms are will benefit you. They’ll thank you for relieving them of their anxieties amidst the foreign situation that they’re in. Perhaps they were a bit hesitant to ask, or perhaps they didn’t want to out themselves as unknowing in the field. Your initiated assurance of their understanding of all the special terms and acronyms you use will do well to win them over to your side.


Next in line:

Why You Need to be Tuned Into the Reactions of Others

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims in any way.