Let’s mind our language!

The words we use are important. Sometimes the words we choose can do us a disservice and not communicate the message we intended. Can you think of some words and phrases you use that might be giving an unintended meaning? 

Here’s a good one to start with. Let’s meet ‘face-to-face’, as we all know that’s often the most effective way to build trust and rapport. Thanks to the recent coronavirus epidemic, there’s been an explosion of online meetings. But here’s the thing. Whether you use Zoom, Teams or WebEx, we’re still seeing each other’s faces. So technically it is still face-to-face. So let’s start referring to them as ‘physical meetings’ and ‘online meetings’. 

We still like to say to people “Let’s meet face-to-face to further discuss this”, as that sets the expectation of a positive interaction. Then we say something like “And instead of us travelling for two hours to do that, let’s just do a quick and easy online meeting using Zoom”. We think this is especially important when we’re talking with our clients, as it sets a positive tone for the future interaction. We have shaken our heads when we have heard people say “I know you’ll hate it, but let’s do a Zoom call and hope that for once it works properly”. That is just setting the wrong tone! 

Again, thanks to COVID-19, the term ‘social distancing’ has become common. But that’s really the last thing we want to happen when people are already feeling vulnerable and threatened. We need people to be socially connected more than ever. What we really need is ‘physical distancing’, so we don’t become physically close enough to someone else to possibly spread the disease. So you see, it’s not social distancing we want to encourage, but physical distancing. 

Also as a result of the pandemic, there has been a huge upswing in people working from home. Both of us have really enjoyed not having to do the daily commute to work, and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work from home. Although John does point out that his children have all grown up and left home, so it was an easy environment for him to work in!

Often the people working from home or elsewhere are referred to as ‘remote workers’. What we like about that is that you could be working from home, a coffee shop or a coworking space. However if you then have some who are working remotely and others who are working from the office, it creates an us and them mentality. Traditionally the power balance is in the favour of those working from an office, and especially the head office. So instead of talking about ‘remote workers’, let’s talk about ‘distributed team members’. Then it’s all embracing and can refer to those working from home, a cafe, a coworking space or even from an office.

Following on from that, we often talk about our ‘work-life balance’. However that by definition implies that work is not part of life. There are so many things that need to be balanced…cooking, shopping, physical exercise, and of course looking after our mental wellbeing. So let’s just talk about ‘life balance’. 

The final one we’ll leave you with is the choice of personal pronouns, especially ‘you’ and ‘they’. This is getting picky but we think it makes a real difference. When we’re talking with a group and providing suggestions or recommendations, we prefer to say “We should” rather than “You should”, as the latter is a bit too directive and no one likes being told what to do!

These were some examples that have rubbed us the wrong way over the last few months. We hope they’ve illustrated that the words we choose are important, and can sometimes not communicate the desired message or intent. 

Well, you’ve read our thoughts, now we’d like to hear yours! Add a comment below the blog post and share some of the words or phrases that you think we need to be more careful with. We don’t want this to be just a one-way conversation – join in by sharing your thoughts and ideas with us! 

Thanks folks for reading this Enablers of change episode. Remember to subscribe if you’d like to know when new episodes are available. And if you liked what you heard, please tell your friends so they can join the conversation! All the best until we meet again!

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Debbie Twiss
Debbie Twiss
30 days ago

unprecedented…” -the use of this word makes it seem other tough times are less valid and that this descriptor is used to excuse behaviour or lowering of expectations that we would never normally consider acceptable.