Words Do Matter
There has been an ongoing debate about the power of vitriolic speech in the aftermath of the shooting tragedy in Tuscon where a gunman killed 6 people
and wounded 13 others including a U.S. Congresswoman.
Most concede it is difficult to draw a direct line between this event and the increasingly heated political rhetoric, now so prevalent in this country. However as one commentator theorized, a public barrage of hateful words “provide the oxygen” in which hateful and horrific acts are more likely to occur.
We all need to be conscious of, and responsible for, the words we speak. Words do matter!
As a life coach and mediator, I often point out to couples how simple words like “must,” “should,” “always” and “never” shut down communication and place the other person in a defensive rather than conciliatory posture.
It seems simple and intuitive, but folks are always surprised at how a conscious verbal reframing of an idea can make a world of difference. If this is true for a spouse or family member, it is also true for an employee, colleague or boss.
Then there are the words we use to describe ourselves. It is OK to be self-deprecating, but to say “I am just a…” ( student, lab tech or whatever) denigrates the speaker’s worth. Just as importantly, others follow your cue and treat you according to how you define yourself.
How do we describe to others the issues that affect us: licensure, pay, prestige, personnel shortage? Management, other members of the healthcare team and even government agencies take their cues from us. Our interchangeable use of terms with different meanings (licensure, certification, for example) broadcast a lack of interest or willingness to be educated on the issues. How do we expect others to act?
According to the Pygmalion Effect theory, much of of what we experience are simply the results of self fulfilling prophecy at work. People behave according to expectations. If we speak negatively about ourselves, our profession, our colleagues, our organization we are likely to experience exactly what we predict and what we expect.
Words do matter. Let’s use them wisely.