Massage & Bodywork


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A few months ago in the Healwell community, we invited members to share examples of massage therapy jargon. And we asked anyone who shared examples to provide their understanding of their meaning. That thread is still going. We've explored everything from adhesions to friction to shearing and beyond. When is a word or phrase considered jargon? Is jargon bad? If jargon is bad, is it always bad? It's easy to get bogged down. Language is how we connect. It's one of our main tools to understand each other. We use it to help our clients understand their bodies and to talk with each other about our work. Our clients use it to help us understand what has brought them to us. When there is disagreement about the meanings of words, the wheels of connection start to come off. Spend 10 minutes on any Facebook group and you'll see derailments around language. I became curious about this concept while reading a book about the use of theatrical improv exercises to teach scientists how to connect with audiences in presenting their findings. They didn't use the exercises during their presentations, but rather participated in them as part of their education. Almost without fail, these often stiff, jargon-centric folks, whose presentations had previously been impenetrable for laypeople, became more skillful at connecting and sharing information. Their communication was much less hindered by strange words that could be misconstrued or were simply unintelligible. In my research about language, one definition of jargon that resonated is "unnecessarily complicated language used to impress, rather than to inform, your audience." 1 The trick here, of course, is to decide when your use of certain words or phrases is "unnecessary." When should I say fascia and when will tissue suffice? When is tensile simply more accurate than tension? Our egos and our familiarity with a topic can conspire to make this kind of discernment difficult. Jargon can also happen when the speaker or writer has not made space to consider their audience. It's common to unwittingly assume that our audience knows the same 80 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k j a n u a r y/ fe b r u a r y 2 0 2 3 critical thinking | MASSAGE THERAPY AS HEALTH CARE How Do You Use Jargon? By Cal Cates things we do. When we spend a lot of time exploring and practicing around a certain topic, the jargon of that topic becomes second nature to us and sometimes replaces more commonplace words that would get our point across more clearly. Maybe, in the old days, we used to say skin, but now we say epidermis. We also used to say palm up; now we say supinate. We all want to feel comfortable and respected for what we think we know or have suffered or learned. Even when we're not at work, we want, without realizing it, to show others we are smart, aware, kind, a good person. Jargon plays a big role in this.

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