Insider Terms Create Outsiders
by C.A. Phillips
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.
A couple years back at the MLB All-Star break, I was watching the Home Run Derby, and the 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.” There also used to be a former major leaguer named Dave Campbell who was on the network, and they affectionately referred to him as “Soup.” (Campbell’s Soup, get it?)
Not too long after the All-Star break, I tuned in for a Sunday night baseball game and heard Erin Andrews, who had been ESPN’s darling of the dugout and sideline interview, said, “Let’s send 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 barriers 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.
Jesus was the master as coming alongside people and putting them at ease. Jesus was the friend that “sinners” never had.
Matthew 9:10 says this: While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. (NIV)
This was unheard of! Sinners were outcasts. But, Jesus came for all people – especially the sinners and outcasts!
All people – to some degree – are insecure, particularly when they are placed in a foreign environment. And, using terminology that people are not familiar with only exacerbates their uneasiness and discomfort.
People want to belong, and even 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.
C.A. Phillips is a lifelong sports enthusiast and youth baseball coach, and currently serves as the Communications Pastor and Director of Men’s Groups at NorthStar Church in Kennesaw, Ga. He lives in Kennesaw with his wife, Amy, and his two sons, Chaz and Chandler.
Imagine that you could sit down and pick the brains of some of the top leaders in the country! That’s the premise behind the Linch with a Leader podcast. Learn how these leaders – all among the best in their respective field – have risen to the top, while continuing to grow spiritually and chase after the Lord.