See what I did there, even added a wee one in the title. Working in digital can be a challenge at times, with everyone sitting at different levels of tech understanding. There has been many a time where I have caught myself still lingering on a co-workers first few way-over-my-head sentences when we are now 5 minutes into the conversation.
Don’t get me wrong of course, I’m pretty clued up when it comes to the what’s what of tech but when someone starts speaking fluent developer It can instantly derail the conversation.
When working with a client this can become a huge problem, leading to miscommunications and the occasional need for a massive backtrack. The biggest helper I have found here is the power of similes and metaphors.
“It’s like trying to fit pots into a cutlery tray”
“It’s not a plaster it’s a wet sponge”
“You have a Gremlin in your CMS”
“It needs a Satnav to get round the corner, so you still need to put in the postcode”
“It’s like having a net any time you’re jumping”
These are just some of the (often laughter inducing) metaphors I have heard around the office as of late. Dear clients, if we used these on you, we hope they helped!
The reasoning behind using these is more than just preferential though, they can help untangle the technical world in a few key ways -
- Making the unfamiliar familiar - When speaking with people, you can normally get along when there is a few words you’re not quite up to speed on. However, when you’re diving headfirst into a conversation where every second term is alien to you it can be quite overwhelming. This is where a nice, neat simile or metaphor can summarise whats happening in a way which your brain will understand.
Example - ‘The jargon this is doing jargon that to the jargonjargonjargon’ could really just mean ‘your website is the Fort Knox of e-commerce’
Getting that image in your head will make things easier to remember - Having something you have visualised can create a longer lasting memory than when you are trying to wrap your head around something intangible, which is often the case in the digital world (hello metaphorical clouds…).
This works best when it’s something surprising, rather than your tried and tested ones. So instead of using ‘Fort Knox’ in the above example you could swap in ‘air-tight prenup’ and get a bigger laugh.
- Communicate communicate communicate - That’s what we like to do. In client services, it’s not just about getting things across to the customer the right way, it’s about making sure that all parties are able to effectively speak to each other. Using this kind of language is a two way street and ‘say it back in Mhairi speak’ is something I have often practised…
‘What’s that developer friend? Did you mean their CMS has a cheeky Gremlin in it that keeps running around shutting things off!?’
'Why yes I did Mhairi, that’s exactly what is happening’
‘Oh great, I am glad we can all understand each other’
Communication 101 for the not so techie of us.