No Bad Words

Our imperfect brains like to categorize things with broad brush strokes. This is how we create stereotypes. While not always true our broad brush strokes and stereotypes are a good starting point for learning.

Yes, it’s ok to have stereotypes as long as we recognize that they are very basic categorizations that need refinement.

We can see these stereotypes not just about people, but about the things around us.

My 9 year-old was talking about bad words the other day. I didn’t have the the opportunity for me to help her refine her impression at the time, but it’s on the list of things to do. How she categorizes her language will impact her future. For now, I’ll address it with this audience.

Yes, dear reader. I’m practicing on you.

There are no such thing as bad words!

Now, if you’re of the sensitive ear set the way to discover this might not be completely palatable. Helen Zaltzman’s work with language through her podcast The Allusionist revealed that it’s not the words themselves that are offensive. It’s that language has an aggressive aspect in both its content and delivery.

You see it’s not the list of words that we see as bad or good that’s really at play. That would simply be a checklist. It’s the words that our society only sees as aggressive.

This would be an aggressive — reverent scale. Not an aggressive — passive scale. Passive refers to tense, not tone.

The words used to create aggressive or irreverent language changes over time. The folks who screen movies might have a checklist of what can/can’t be said for certain movie ratings, but in our everyday life where we don’t have that checklist it’s not that we should check our words. We need to check our tone.

Are we communicating with an aggressive tone that will reduce our ability to collaborate?

If so, maybe that’s what we need to change. It’s not the list of words we’re using, but the choice of language we’re using in comparison to our desired outcome.