“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” — Matthew 11:19
Insider Terms Create Outsiders
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 events, 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 realized 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 in building community. Avoid using language that will alienate people, and instead do your best to genuinely 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 be patronizing and make false assumptions.
Jesus was the master at 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, NorthStar Church, Kennesaw, Ga.
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