When You Use the Wrong Words

racist comments racist remarks racist insults

Have you ever written a blog post or said something aloud only to have listeners or readers:

1. Insist one or more of the words you chose aren’t the best words to communicate what you mean?

(After all, language is complex and nuance or intent is often assigned by the hearer.  Not to mention, many English words have multiple meanings. For example, one might use the word “clandestine” to mean sneaky or under-handed, but another person could use it to simply mean behind-the-scenes or under wraps.)

2. Tell you the word or phrase you used is offensive?

(As we learn more about other people groups, we can grow better at avoiding offensive language. It’s not always easy to predict, however, how a word that seems neutral or uncharged to one person might seem attacking or berating to another.)

3. Assume you were belittling or criticizing when you had no negative intention in mind?

In our lifelong pursuit to practice good empathy, listening–then–seems to be key. We can’t claim the detached luxury of simply filtering our language through our own experience. We have to allow it to be shaped by the perception of those unlike us.

That is no easy task.

Want to dig further into this? There is a new Tumblr feed that focuses on Microaggressions which allows us to listen to racial observations using someone else’s ears:

This blog seeks to provide a visual representation of the everyday of “microaggressions.” Each event, observation and experience posted is not necessarily particularly striking in and of themselves. Often, they are never meant to hurt – acts done with little conscious awareness of their meanings and effects. Instead, their slow accumulation during a childhood and over a lifetime is in part what defines a marginalized experience, making explanation and communication with someone who does not share this identity particularly difficult. Social others are microaggressed hourly, daily, weekly, monthly.

Read more of a BuzzFeed article that highlights 21 photos that capture racial microagressions. (Warning: some material on this site could be offensive to some.)

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2 Comments on When You Use the Wrong Words

  1. Gary Ellis
    December 17, 2013 at 7:38 pm (3 years ago)

    Very well expressed. I’ve been there, for sure. I advocate and teach to learn the art of listening with your “heart ears.” I’ve discovered in my many years, (I’m older than dirt), that practically everyone has the same “heart goals” in mind. Most of us want the same basic things in life and I’m learning to try hearing what the other person’s heart is saying.

    • Sarah
      December 20, 2013 at 12:02 am (3 years ago)

      Thanks, Gary. Appreciate the comment. :)


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