Do you remember synonyms from high school English class? Synonyms are words that have similar meanings, like big and large. Homonyms are words that sound the same, like sense and cents. Antonyms are opposites. So what’s a Vague-O-Nym?
The English language is highly interpretable, as are most types of communication. A vague-o-nym, therefore, is a word or phrase that without additional information or context, doesn’t mean much because it could mean different things.
Suppose for example, a salesperson says to the boss, “We’re gong to get the PO soon.” The sales manager replies, “What do you mean by soon?” A little defensive, the salesperson says, “Hey, I’m just telling you what the customer told me.”
When a customer says, “We plan to make a decision soon.” Are they saying it will take a few days or several weeks? When they say “we,” to whom are they referring? When they say “decision,” are they talking about a technical recommendation or a purchase? Does “plan” refer to a high level strategic plan or an action item for moving forward?
I’m not suggesting that you should dissect everything that’s being said. But, the next time a customer says “quality” or “cost” is very important to them, a good salesperson will realize that without clarifying specific vague-o-nyms, the customer could be referring to any number of different things.