Watch What We Say!

In a recent conversation with an HR manager regarding her orientation to a new organization, she noted that the organization was firmly committed to ensuring a psychologically safe culture by adopting inclusive and non-violent language.

One of the ways it does this is to ban violent language in any and all organizational communication, including email, written and oral reports, social media, training, marketing, and general conversation.

I was intrigued. When I asked if she could provide examples of violent language, she surprised me with mention of phrases we tend to use every day in business, such as “bullet points” and “right on target.”

When I thought about it, I realized that the phrases are violent by association. And they aren’t necessary. Once aware of them, we can easily replace them with non-violent language. “Bullet points” can become “key points or main ideas.” “Right on target” can become “met or achieved the goal.”

Here is a list of violent words and phrases I found on the web that we hear and use all the time. Please think about (1) how and when you use them or have heard others use them,  (2) how they reflect a sense of violence, and (3) what you could say instead.

Blown away, give it a shot, armed with the facts, had a blast, killed it, silver bullet, I’m shooting for, when push comes to shove, adding insult to injury, take a stab at, shot in the dark, push over, to be brutally honest, soften the blow, beats me, that really bombed, pushed over the edge, killer smile, overkill, kick the bucket, set the world on fire, pick your battles, kicking around an idea, get away with murder, killing time, if looks could kill, roll with the punches, jumped the gun, kick in the pants, bit the bullet, the beaten path, hit the road, that slays me, twist your arm, break a leg, breaks my heart, at the end of my rope, the straw that broke the camel’s back, blow up in your face, shoot yourself in the foot, shoot from the hip, and straight shooter.

It’s pretty eye-opening to realize how laden with violence these common words and phrases are, and how many of them exist that we use without thinking.

Question: Do you think using violent language creates a subconscious inclination for violence and/or anesthetizes us in the face of violence?

#violentlanguage #organizationalculture #nonviolentlanguage

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