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A Business Communication Tip?

Wednesday January 20, 2021

Cesar writes,

What’s an important business communication tip for INTJs that you don’t see shared around much?

Maybe a big one is adapting your vocabulary. Putting your words aside for a bit and using others’ words for things.

We INTJs can get stuck on our “correct” words for things. Which is commendable, if you’re working with people who also appreciate that.

In such an environment, nobody wants to misunderstand, because that’s super inefficient. And if we have a shared understanding of a common bank of words that are used for this or that task—great. “Ooh, you just used a term which is specific, and has a load of meaning, and we both get it!” That’s a terrific feeling if you like efficiency and effectiveness.

In a lot of cases though, we have to work with people who don’t subscribe to the same word bank that we do. :-) In these cases, it helps to listen more closely for words people use that depart from this common word bank. It helps if you can try to treasure those words a bit, because they are important to the person who is using them.

And I’m not even talking about really specific, or technical words here! For example, let’s say you normally use these words a LOT at your job:

  • Teamwork
  • Authorize
  • Project

But this time, a client, colleague, or partner is heading up a big new discussion, and they describe what they want to do together. In their description of the work, they use these words instead of the words above:

  • Efforts
  • Release
  • Engagement

In context, those words mean the same thing. If you understand this correlation, you now have a kind of mental map to that person’s “yes” button. Why? Easy: Those are their words.

So while it’s tempting to send them over your usual email that says, “Project Authorization,” because that shows you know your job and your words, IMO it’s a better idea to use “Engagement Release” if that seems like it fits their word bank better.

As an introvert, somebody who brings their past more heavily into new conversations, you may tend to stick with your words because they give you a lot of subjective comfort, in this way or that. Maybe they help you feel more competent, or confident. However, sticking to one’s own preferred words can be a liability in teamwork.

You may also find that using your own word bank makes other people feel like their words are obsolete, or incorrect, or kinda dumb. If at all possible, it’s a good idea to avoid this scenario.

Personally I tend to write down others’ words for things. Then I briefly clarify how I’m using those words, and when I get the “yep, we’re right there with you, (BECAUSE THOSE ARE OUR WORDS AND WE LIKE THEM)” then I use those words to describe what I’d like to do next, or where I see the work going.

I’ve had some hilariously good results with this. I would almost say the more specific I get with this, the better things go. And I wouldn’t call it outright manipulation, which a lot of INTJs are really sensitive about—it’s more like you’re looking things up in their own dictionary for them. A professional courtesy that goes a long way.

If you have ever become stuck while explaining your word bank to someone else, you may know that this is also a big risk. Particularly if the person on the other end is in an introverted mode, or if they’re just not being listened to. Maybe they don’t really appreciate your technical work, maybe they hate it, maybe their boss is making them work with you—whatever it is, the act of explaining your words tends to make all that stuff even worse.

(I’m reminded that I should also write about mansplaining, which was one of my favorite business topics to look into in 2020!)

Good luck Cesar! Hope that helps. —Marc

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