The Cut of a Word
The cut from a physical blade heals with time. The cut of bitter words from a loved one create wounds that last a lifetime.
The words we use have such a profound impact on the way we interact with one another, and our daily lives. They influence our thoughts, which influence our emotions, which influence our actions. The simple act of changing a few words we use on a daily basis can provide us with a new frame of mind. George Orwell’s 1984 rested on this notion that if you slowly diminish a person’s vocabulary, you diminish her ability to create new thoughts.
You/Them v. Me/We
Often, when referring to other people, we use words like “you” or “you’re“. In a fight, this can be damaging. When someone begins to accuse me of stealing something for instance, my immediate reaction is to go on the defensive. Instead, try speaking from a personal perspective, using words like “I”, “me”, or “my“. This allows the person you’re fighting with to see the dispute from your eyes, and encourage self-reflection. It stems connection, and allows us to focus on healing the pain rather than fighting to decide who’s right and who’s been wronged.
Also, referring to other groups of people as “them” infers that there’s something different and unsavory about the other group. I might refer to a group as “them“, for instance India, when I want to separate my affiliation with the group. Doing so can be helpful in some situations, for instance due to my objection as a Sikh to human rights abuses by the Indian Government on minority groups. On the other hand, in many cases using the word “we” inspires a connection between two groups. I might refer to Indians as “we“, since we share common goals. Different situations call for different words, but being aware of the words we use and the effect they have can be a powerful communication tool.
As you go about your day today, pay attention to how we (humans) refer to Nature, the Earth, women, or other species of animals. Often, we subconsciously accept that we own these Beings. This acceptance stems from decades of reinforcing thoughts of our dominion over all else, and is usually propagated by majority groups.
We tend to refer to these groups as “our“. Our women, our Earth, my dog, our bees, our oceans. The truth is, we don’t own jack shit. Everything was here before we got here, and it will be here when we’re gone. We’ve gotten pretty cocky about our relationship to the Earth, and it shows. It’s not our Earth, it’s just the Earth.
For now, just pay attention to words used to infer ownership. It’s astonishing how prevalent it is.
Masculine pronouns are used everywhere. We refer to things as “he, him, his, mankind, guys” etc. For this aspect, just try to use women pronouns instead of male pronouns (screw gender-neutral, the scales are tipped too far to be neutral just yet). Try using women pronouns and see what it feels like. Notice how other people react. When someone says “what’s up guys?”, let her know that there are women around too, and watch for her reaction.
When we pay attention to the words we use, it becomes eye-opening to see how much of an impact they have on our thoughts, especially subconsciously. Just pay attention to these three examples of word usage for now. With time, you’ll become aware of other words that have a negative impact on our lives.
What other words have you noticed seem normal but have a negative impact? What could you replace them with to induce more positive emotions, thoughts, and actions?