Language is one of the most powerful tools we have – to influence; to comfort, to connect, to understand.
Is it a skill? Is it an art? Can we learn how to be better in its use?
It is an essential part of creating an environment where everyone feels welcome, and included….to feel that we ‘belong’ and are valued.
Some use language as a weapon and there is a saying: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will break my heart.”
Historically, language has been used deliberately to place groups and communities on the periphery for the gain of others. Creating an ‘us and them’ situation. People like ‘us’ the best and to be better off. People like ‘them’ are lesser than ‘us’.
People have been marginalized and discriminated against because of their culture, race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, socioeconomic status, appearance and more.
Wounds leave scars. Hearing those words again can send us back to that emotional moment of hurt, anger, and sadness.
However, we are amazing creatures and can correct that impact!
Sometimes it may seem a strangely small issue… to you. BUT – you may not have walked in my shoes nor I in yours. What I can do is appreciate and empathise with your journey. I do this without defensiveness but rather with an intention to understand.
To do this, I must challenge habits that may be deeply embedded, that may be part of an unconscious bias and may not have ever been challenged as they were part of a ‘group-think’.
By using inclusive language, we show that we seek to treat all people with respect, dignity, and impartiality. It is constructed to bring everyone into the group and exclude no one. To enable their voices to be heard and valued, to be able to contribute to the bigger picture.
Here’s the not-so-good news… language will continue to evolve. We might even offend someone because we have used a word or phrase that we had come to believe was ‘ok’. So, what could we do if that happens?
Apologise from a place of genuineness and not a token gesture – that goes a long way.
Ask – what could I say instead – let me learn from you.
Did I mention that we are amazing creatures? We are remarkably skilled at adjusting to life. With care and kindness, we continue to learn. Let’s go together.
Utilising over 30 years of experience providing consultancy services and programmes in the UK and internationally, Judeline work’s with organisations to develop their people to be the best they can be with a particular emphasis on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion matters.
Judeline is a Lay Panel Member of Employment Tribunals (Discrimination) and was highly commended for her work on EDI by the Institute of Directors coaching C-Suite, Boards, and aspiring leaders through challenging conversations to achieve their personal and business aspirations. Judeline is also chair the Norfolk Race Equality, Human Rights Network and a judge with the Third Sector Awards.