Language and attitude towards the usage of words often reflect our understanding of right or wrong. The way we speak – our tonality, choice of words reflects what we consider right and wrong.
Most importantly, the words, terms that we should in our everyday conversations, whether in a professional or personal setting, whether written or spoken, indicate the feelings we harbour in our subconscious.
The terms in the language often mirror our social construct – our understanding of right and wrong, fair and injustice, demeaning and empowering, liberal and conservative, moral, and immoral. They affect how we conceptualize problems, prioritize issues, and forge our reactions and responses.
While effective advocacy campaigns on equality, equity, and human rights continue to call for systemic changes, better understanding, knowledge, the intent to break prejudices, and nurture respect for differences can play a pivotal role in creating empathy and consciously reducing biases deep-rooted in our minds.
Time is now to learn and sensitize.
Sensitization can help make informed choices and break and refine the underlying forms of gender construction and contexts in our speech and communication. Institutions and workplaces can act as strong authorities and instruments of change for bringing societal reform by working towards building a thorough understanding of its context, concept, usages, and cautions of right words and terminologies for people that they are responsible for.
At an organization-level: The journey starts with the real intent, commitment, and right information:
While we are still evolving and there is a lot to learn about different groups, sentiments, cultural and emotional dimensions, a few key recommendations can potentially be useful to propel conscious and responsible communication. The methodology to work towards this direction starts with the intent to dissipate conscious and unconscious bias. A few significant steps that one could consider are:
- Policies: Comprehensive non-discriminatory and equal opportunity policies
- Training and sensitization programs: With the help of experts and the right repository of information
- Consciously curating and monitoring messaging surrounding responsible communications (internal and external
How we engage with diverse entities within and outside
How brands speak to their stakeholders and the public
Creating the right culture, which is empathetic, considerate, and sensitive; usage of inclusive language accommodates different viewpoints and builds an ecosystem of collaboration and respect.
- People or groups to speak for themselves. There should be a mutual consensus to ensure that the language used is reflective of the group.
- Using people-centered language that focuses and reflects people’s individuality: Where appropriate, we must ask about the language people prefer and respect their wishes. We cannot make assumptions about people or their characteristics based on stereotypes or our limited knowledge.
- An open mind to change what we have always considered respectful and appropriate to say: If one is not sure what terminology someone prefers, we can ask them or find ways to get in touch with organizations representing given diversity groups*.
- And most importantly, it is the primary responsibility of the leaders within the organization to walk the talk and drive change. They can be role models demonstrating change across the value chain.
These recommendations and thoughts have been taken from the book “Consciously Speaking” – A terminology book on gender, sex, and sexuality.”
We are all learning every day, learning from our mistakes. We all can consciously try to be as just as possible in our thoughts, words, and action.
Explaining with the help of a reference from the book “Consciously Speaking-A book terminologies on gender, sex and sexuality”
By definition: It is commonly used when defining a psychological concept or making a distinction between different sexual orientations, such as heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual, to understand the related behavior. However, some people may still use these terms to define their sexual identity in general.
How not to use: Sexual orientation is not synonymous with gender identity. We should not assume one’s sexual orientation unless the person reveals it.
Recounting a famous quote by author Rita Mae Brown, “Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides.”
Language with the right choice of vocabulary and the right intent has the power to bring people together by nurturing empathy, fostering partnerships and coalitions. It is the catalyst that contributes in an impactful and measurable manner, enabling change where it is most needed.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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