Language and words are generative.
Yet many consider them as simply descriptive.
And dismiss different interpretations as mere semantic quibbles.
I was fascinated to hear interviews with doctors and nurses at the ‘frontline’ of the pandemic. Many decry the use of the word ‘heroes’ when applied to their experiences caring for patients suffering from Covid-19. Some argue that the use of ‘heroes’ and our weekly clapping to honour the NHS staff shifted emphasis away from focusing on appropriate pay, conditions, safety and resources. This ritual assuaged the general public’s feelings of discomfort, but did it do anything to improve the key workers’ experiences and the risks they were taking?
Also the militaristic jargon of ‘fighting an enemy’ simplifies complex crises of multiple layers and ignores inequalities of access, treatment and protection. Interestingly research on war metaphors and framing by Elena Semino and others explore whether they influence how we think and feel about problems and solutions.
What is your view – do words matter in the office?
What experiences have you had where the choice of words influenced your actions?
If you would like to discuss how your choice of words influences your thinking and actions, and those of others contact firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0) 7952 068133.