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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Words Do Matter

Published January 25, 2011 5:18 PM by Glen McDaniel
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.


Sorry to hear that Mary but I hear you loud and clear. We have to think before we speak, I think. Not enough people do that. Also we sometimes describe ourselves or our colleagues in such terms that do not uplift them. Even as a parent you gotta be careful with the words we choose. Words can encourage or hurt a child for life!

Jasmine T MT (AMT) February 10, 2011 12:25 AM
Boston MA

read this on Sunday and agree completely. Little did I know when we went in to work on Monday we would be met with such insults by our manager. She got all the supervisors together and said we were basically useless.

There is supposedly gossiping going on and someone  reported her to Human  Resources. She called us gutless with no integrity. Everyone is sad upset and angry all week. The thing is we have no idea what she is talking about. But by her words she insulted us, threatened us and made us feel we might lose our jobs. She definitely used her words as weapons.

At this point even if she apologized or told us what her problem is she has already created bad feelings. Words do matter.

Mary February 2, 2011 3:57 PM

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