Thursday, July 17, 2008

Insider Terms Create Outsiders

Don't you just hate it when you are sitting at a table with folks engaged in a conversation, and the parties gabbing use lingo that's foreign to you, drop names unfamiliar to you, and laugh at inside jokes that are meaningless to you? How does that make you feel? Do you feel closer to these people, or do you feel like you are being pushed to the edge? Do you feel included, or do you feel insignificant?

I tend to watch ESPN quite a bit. Probably too much. And, in some ways, that network feels like home to me as I channel surf. I know the names and the faces, and I am pretty familiar with the terminology being thrown about on a daily basis. But one thing that continues to rub me the wrong way is their overuse of nicknames when talking to one another.

The other night during the Home Run Derby, announcers kept "tossing it back" to their fellow reporters and TV personalities by constantly using nicknames for one another. It really made me angry.

Baseball Tonight host Karl Ravich was continually referred to as "Ravi." Chris Berman, the long-time stalwart of ESPN, and since 1979 has been the face of the network, is always called "Boomer." John Kruk, former MLB first baseman for the Phillies and Padres is now called "Krukie."

And, a week or so ago, I tuned in for a Sunday night baseball game and heard Erin Andrews, who is ESPN's new darling of the dugout and sideline interview, sent it "back to you, O.B." It took me a moment, but I realize she was referring to commentator Dave O'Brien.

The point is, when you use your insider nicknames and terminology, you turn people off. You make them feel like outsiders, when your goal should always be to invite them in and build relationships with them - even through the TV airwaves.

With respect to your church or organization, your network of friends, and even those you would consider acquaintances, do your best to tear down bridges to building community. Avoid using language that will alienate people, and instead do your best to genuinely try to involve them in the conversation. Be careful about using nicknames and abbreviations for things that are not obvious to everyone in the room (or on the TV or radio). And, never ever be patronizing and make false assumptions.

People want to belong, and ever more than that they want to FEEL welcomed. Analyze your personal communication style and decide if you could do a better job of putting others at ease and creating an atmosphere of INCLUSION rather than one of EXCLUSION.

No one likes to be - or FEEL - like an outsider.


Unknown said...

OMG!! Thank you thank you thank you. Seriously. This was totally driving me nuts. I've heard reporters refer to the announcer on ESPN as 'O.B.' several times in the past and could not figure out what they were talking about. I kept thinking that this was some kind of 'inside baseball' jargon meaning 'official broadcaster' or something of that sort. I actually kept searching the internet and reading through various lists of baseball terminology to try to find an answer. It never occurred to me that it was a nickname for an individual. Silly me. Anyways, thanks for your post. You saved me a lot of pointless headscratching. I suppose that just proves your above point though, doesn't it?

Unknown said...

Hey - thanks for the comment. Yes - this illustrates my point. These broadcasters are trying to be "cute," but it's really creating the opposite feeling in the audience than what they intend. Frustrates me as well. Take care!