Is jargon preventing you from connecting with current and prospective clients?
I bet it is—but you might not know it.
Here’s a definition of jargon: “words used by a particular group that are difficult for others to understand.”
And here’s how it shows up in gyms: “Welcome to your first class! Put your stuff in the cubbies, grab some PVC and mobilize your delts before the Oly WOD.”
Another example: “So you want to improve body composition. I’d recommend a habits-based approach instead of macro tracking.”
At best, stuff like that is mystifying if you aren’t a gym owner or coach.
At worst, it says, “You don’t really belong here.”
The CEO of T2Bs and WODs?
In the gym world, some people try to use jargon to increase their stature.
Imagine the coach who wants everyone to know how smart he is: “This stimulus is really going to challenge the glycolytic pathway.”
Mentor and gym owner Brian Bott made this point at the recent Two-Brain Summit: Why say “self-myofascial release” when you could just say “foam rolling”?
Other coaches just use jargon because they’re careless and assume everyone knows gym language—even the person who joined a week ago and hasn’t a clue what “T2Bs” are.
Regardless of why it’s used, jargon results in a lack of connection.
Those who don’t understand your words have three options:
1. Pretend they understand and guess.
2. Remain silent and start frantically looking for clues to avoid shame.
3. Ask for clarification.
Option 3 is the best—but it’s the least common. I try to force myself to use this approach, but I’m not always successful. If you’re feeling nervous or out of place already, it can be really hard to say “I don’t understand” to someone who’s accidentally suggesting you should know what’s going on.
Have you ever been confronted with jargon when you’re out of your element? Perhaps recall your last trip to the auto shop or hardware store: “You need Phillips self-tapping truss-head screws.”
Or maybe think about watching a sport you’ve never seen before, like Formula 1 racing: “He tried to pass at the apex of the left-hander following the chicane.”
How about web or tech stuff? “The algorithm might have flagged that carousel as spam and shadow-banned you.”
How do you feel when confronted with jargon? Not great, I’m sure.
So imagine how people in your gym feel when you use it. They feel out of place, confused, embarrassed—even stupid.
None of that is good for retention or sales.
Jargon Be Gone
Building a gym requires building relationships, and you can’t do that if your words confuse people or tell them “you don’t fit in.”
So do this:
1. Review your sales scripts and ask yourself, “Are any terms confusing to a prospective client?” Even better, show your script to someone who knows nothing about gyms and ask, “Are there any words you don’t understand?” If the answer is yes in either case, make some simple changes.
2. Review your communication for jargon and then work on weeding it out of your everyday vocabulary. Reread your last five blogs and social-media posts and watch for words that confuse. Film yourself coaching a class or running a staff meeting to see if you’re taking any shortcuts that leave important people behind. Supply definitions for terms when speaking to new people and ask if they understand.
You might not be able to directly tie clear communication to a measurable increase in retention. And you might not sell five platinum packages just because you stopped using the word “stimulus.”
But I guarantee you will build stronger relationships faster if you tailor your communication to the people you’re trying to connect with. And if you become better at making connections, you’ll add more clients and keep them longer.