Language is a strong tool. Aside from the obvious benefit of communication, the words we choose have the ability to strengthen or reinforce our principles and values. I often find myself saying, “that word is not in my vocabulary,” where what I’m actually saying is, “that word doesn’t reflect my beliefs.” Here are a few examples of words I very rarely use.
This is at the top of my list for a reason. Many of the other words on this list are just cousins of should. This word implies there is a right and wrong way to do something. We see this concept in political debates all the time, and chances are, you are doing something or living your life in a way that someone has campaigned against. Whenever it feels like the word “should” is coming out of my mouth, I instead replace it with the word “could.” Could is about creating a possibility. Could is empowering, the antithesis to the oppressive should. Replacing this word in my vocabulary has helped me become more open-minded and accepting. Life is less stressful that way!
Never is a byproduct of should. It closes the door on the possibility of change. You won’t often hear me committing to never (or on the flip side, always). There are a lot of unknowns out there, and saying “never” implies I know everything there is to know. Flexibility and the willingness to change is vital to progress and growth.
As in, “Can’t you just…” When the word “just” or similar phrasing is used to simplify or minimize the impact of something, that usually signals one of two things. Either the speaker has no idea the magnitude of the task at hand, or they do not readily respect your judgment or expertise.
I personally don’t like rules, with the exception of the ones that keep people safe. When really pressed, I will write a rule about something, but I won’t enjoy it. Rules are the output of the should machine. When I hire new creative team members to work on our shows, we give them a lot of guidelines, tools, and best practices, but what I won’t tell them is who to be in the room, and how to do their jobs. Their uniqueness is an asset, and it’s important to me that our participants work with different styles and ways of being who bring their own flavor to the experience.
Transparency is a value that is fundamental to our organization. If you have a question, chances are I will answer it as thoroughly and honestly as I can. It may seem like it’s a noble thing that I value transparency, but really it’s because I’m just rather lazy. Secrets (and lies) are a lot of work. Honest transparency is just easier.
How about you, any words or phrases that you either try to avoid or that drive you crazy? Chances are, your vocabulary preferences are revealing something about your values or beliefs.