Wineskins & Hyphens: How Jargon Kills Communication and Undermines Hospitality

Last week, I welcomed a small team of collaborators for a scouting expedition to Memphis, TN. Stay tuned for details of our fall pilgrimage – you are invited! Our venues are a church and a mixed-use development and our “pilgrims” will emerge from the intersection between those two worlds. It’s the place where I spend most of my time and I’ve gotten pretty comfortable there.

Among our team are a pastor and two people with no connection to organized religion. In fact, religion brings painful memories left behind in young adulthood, only to become inspirational leaders of influence in their own right, with life-giving and soul-nourishing careers.

Like any work sector, religion has jargon. In political rhetoric, we call them “dog whistles.” More than most, institutional religion has jargon and acronyms and, you know . . . parables*. In reality, the coworking movement has its share, too. We know whether you are “in” or “out” based on hyphen usage! Because I operate in two worlds, I resist using jargon because it is a barrier to understanding. On the other hand, it’s lazy shorthand to demonstrate my expertise.

During our time together in Memphis, I learned just how much I’ve been assimilated. I was slinging around terms and phrases that were deeply meaningful to me, the pastor and church leaders, but left my other guests confused and shut out. Fortunately, we made space to discuss it and learned more about each other’s stories. I’m grateful for that.

Back home, I asked my coworking marketing lab to workshop this document written for a specific group of clergy and church leadership. Again – confusion and disconnection. I made excuses: “it’s for a specific audience! It’s just one part of a larger document!”

But the reality is, I was being lazy and I was just fine with allowing the communication barrier to hold firm. I devalued people and I’m sorry. If I’m really going to claim the space and bridge the gap between two worlds, I must do better.

You are invited to call me out on it. And thanks.

*”Wineskins” is a reference to a Biblical parable about not putting new wine in old wineskins – a vessel for holding wine formed from an animal skin in ancient times. It needed to be maintained and never allowed to dry out completely because it would lose its shape and thus its usefulness. The useful metaphor that serves us today is that new ways of doing things will challenge the old containers, institutions and systems. See? It works in both worlds.

Published by Daryn DeZengotita

I'm a Coworking Catalyst and Hospitality is my Super Power. At Table Coworking, we consult with churches to transform their underutilized space into vibrant, creative community centers. As one of Harvard Divinity School's Innovative Community Leaders, we are exploring new forms of joyful belonging and tribe gathering. One more thing - I founded the North Texas Coworking Alliance to support the movement and independent space owners. I hold a Journalism degree from Texas A&M and have oodles of years of experience in content marketing and direct sales.

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