The Agilist Network

Tales and Tips from Agile Software Projects

Best Practice: "Inform" trumps "Impress"

Posted by kenhoward on June 7, 2007

“Storing the MBO’s and PA’s for the EMG requires the highest level of data security available. Can secure access be provided on a NAS device, or will a SAN be a better option?”

The person who said this sounded very impressive. The problem is that 99% of his listeners didn’t understand at least one element of the statement. This isn’t just a technology acronymn phenomena. It is common with business and company unique terminology.

An empathetic person will assume that at least one of his listeners won’t understand something that is being communicated. See

The tricky part is informing without insulting. If you’re not careful you can sound like a 1st grade teacher explaining the difference between a cow and a pig. As a general rule, some acronyms are well understood as words (NASA, IRS, etc.) and can be stated without explanation. Others are commonly used but may have multiple uses (an IRA is a bank account to a banker, but has a completely different meaning to an Irishman) and using the words instead of the acronym might not be a bad idea. “I try to maintain the minimum in my Individual Retirement Account – IRA – when possible.” I just blurt it out in both flavors and try to not sound condescending.

The bottom line is, if you are empathetic to your listener, you will be more inclined to provide more information and inform. Rarely will someone be impressed by a blabbermouth who tends to throw around a lot of big words and fancy acronyms. Someone who explains, informs and educates will be more likeable and tends to facilitate more productive communication.


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