No sooner did I post my article on the pitfalls of misusing jargon that I found myself in a conversation that was confused and distorted by the use of technical terms without a shared context.
A client mentioned his plan to delegate the task of staying in regular, informal contact with customers between transactions. We naturally agreed that these “keep warm” meetings were a valuable and often overlooked source of repeat business. Since the activity is so valuable for the business, I asked how he was going to track the sales representative’s performance on scheduling and conducting these visits. “I’m not worried about that. Her personality assessment is clearly very high ‘I,’ so I know she will happily do the meetings.”
I told him that puzzled me. The most popular assessment tool is probably the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) that ranks people on four scales, one of which is Extroversion vs. Introversion. People who are introverts, “high Is,” tend to spend more time reflecting than interacting and are the least likely “type” to engage in the sort of open-ended, no agenda meetings needed to maintain good relations with customers between transactions.
“I don’t think ‘I’ stands for Introvert, ” he explained “It stands for Influencer, a person who loves to talk face-to-face and get emotionally engaged.”
“No, not in MBTI, ” I said.
“I wouldn’t know about that, ” he said. “We use DISC.”
The DISC Assessment, of course, is the closest rival to MBTI. Many, many people use abbreviations from each and most people understand their intended meaning (or politely pretend to). Imagine if a DISC user had recommended that salesperson for the job by describing her to an MBTI user as a “high I.” An opportunity lost.
It almost happened to me today. Probably happens to someone every day.
Same Words + Different Assumptions = Bad Communication