Response Crafting

Talk in their terms

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bilingual People know what they want.
Or, rather, they know what they think they want.

And that matters just as much, in the grand scheme of things, because what they think they want is the benchmark against which they will measure what they receive – the standard of “right” until proven otherwise.

And people know what they think they want regardless of whether or not they understand the designer or the developer’s language. They do not care that you speak in terms of “dimensionality” or “structure,” for example, and have little interest in the merit of either when all they care about is seeing certain benefits and/or experiencing x with regard to y.

And you have two approaches to this, as a developer or a designer or a caregiver of the people; one of them considerably better than the other:

Option a: ignore them

Or put on an air of listening, and then disregard the majority of what they say, because “they don’t know what they’re talking about.” Do what you do best – you’re the prahfessional, after all – and feel smugly resolved in the certainty that once they see your brilliant solution, they will forgive the fact that they have no idea what it is that you built.

Option b: talk in their terms

Because “option a” is almost certain to fail, “option b” is talk in their terms.

Talk in the way that they do. Find out how they think about their environment, learn the terminology and use the verbage of their world. And don’t just do it as a vehicle of force-feeding your terminology back to them, but really learn their language. If they talk about streets in terms of “flowers” instead of “footprint,” talk about the flowers. If they want to talk about information architecture in terms of “columns” and “rows” instead of dimension names, then use them. It’s okay to do so; you are bilingual, and they’re not. Find a way to translate your thoughts; strive to restate your questions and ideas so they make sense to them.

Because ultimately, the success of your project – whether it is a city street or a website – depends not on your own esteem of your work, but on how well you deliver on their needs, and those needs are less likely to be met when they do not fully understand what, exactly, it is that you delivered to them.

Product Manager / Blogger Jeff Lash talks more about this on his blog, where he writes:

If you want to be a bad product manager, have your messaging reflect language that makes sense to you and your competitors. Write down the words which are used during your office meetings and make sure to use those in your press releases and brochures. Look at how your competitors market their product and make sure the words you use are “cooler” and more buzz-worthy. If you want to be a good product manager, speak in the language your customers use… When you address the right buyer in their terminology, it allows them to determine better whether the product addresses their needs and allows you to overcome any potential hurdles they may have in the purchase process.

Read the whole post “Speak in the Customer’s Language” here


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