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A single word can make or break a relationship, especially in the early stages. This includes relationships with sales prospects, customers, and coworkers.
Most of us have grown up to think that language and action are two different things. These words don’t really matter. The issue with language is “just semantics”.
But in more than two decades of researching how language actually works, I’ve learned this language is social action, In fact, every thing you say or write can improve or spoil a relationship.
By paying attention to our language and making sure we’re using a more inclusive version, we can avoid painful mistakes. Here are three ways you can make sure your language makes people feel recognized, taken into account, and valued.
How to be mindful of language in the workplace
1. Pay attention to names.
A common type of problematic language is being careless or disrespectful towards names. This is especially hard on people with low-frequency names. But with some effort, you can make people with “foreign” or “difficult” names feel respected and welcomed.
- Pronounce names correctly. Look at email signatures or other official sources and make sure you’ve got someone’s name right. If their name includes an accent, like Renee, use that accent.
- Say the name correctly. When you meet someone with a low-frequency name, repeat it back to them to check that you got it right. Don’t say something like, “I’m afraid I’ll ruin this name.” Instead say something like, “Can you help me make sure I’m pronouncing your name correctly?”
- Create and use forms that accept different names. This includes very short family names, such as Ng, and very long family names, such as Barchas-Lichtenstein. This also includes names with spaces, such as Yi Shun. When people can’t register on your website using your name, and when they receive emails from you with the wrong name (e.g., “Hey, Yi Shun!” instead of “Hey, Yi!”) they may misunderstand you. I will not think well. company. And they may take to social media to complain about disrespect.
2. Avoid assumptions about gender identity.
A common mistake that deeply damages relationships is misgendering someone. Here’s how to avoid using language that doesn’t match a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation – which may not be obvious from their looks.
- Don’t assume you know someone’s gender. For example, instead of saying something like “a man like you” or “a woman like you,” switch to “a person like you.” Unless you know for sure how someone identifies, it’s best to keep it neutral.
- Don’t assume you know the gender of someone’s romantic interest. Instead of asking about someone’s boyfriend or wife, wait for them to tell you that person’s gender. Not everyone is straight! And not everyone fits into the gender binary.
- Use the correct pronoun to refer to someone. It can be hard to get into the habit of saying They Or Them To refer to a known person. But with practice it becomes easier and easier. Referring to someone using the wrong pronouns can have powerful negative effects.
- Use the correct respectful words to address someone. This is a standard way to determine whether someone uses Ms., Mrs., Miss, Mister, Mx, Prof., Dr., or any other honorific title before their name. Then, use that respectful word with them. Especially when we’re trying to show respect, it’s good to be respectful of the way someone likes to be addressed.
3. Avoid male-specific and gender-binary language.
For most of us who grew up speaking English, our cultural programming has taught us that male terms can be used universally to represent everyone. And that not everyone fits into the gender binary. But none of these things are true!
- Move toward gender-neutral language. Male-specific words lead to male-specific models that distort reality and lead us to make faulty decisions. move from humanity To mankindFrom middleman To Mediatorand from human made To artificial, Such terms are more inclusive and will be better accepted by those who are not men and do not like to be excluded.
- Move beyond the gender binary. Not everyone fits into the gender binary. so instead Ladies and gentlemenYou can address a group more neutrally, e.g. respected guests, and instead your husband or wife you can mention your spouse or partner,
By paying attention to names, using language that doesn’t make assumptions about gender identity, and moving beyond male-specific and gender-binary terms, you can improve and enhance your professional relationships.