The key to connecting is communication. Words give voice to our thoughts, feelings, and opinions. The words we choose are powerful. We need to pay attention to how those words affect others.
Here are a few ways to look at and think about the words we use:
- Notice your attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs. We all have opinions and ways of doing things. However, not everyone needs to think and act the same way. It is good to understand how our beliefs and the words we use effect the people around us.
- Understand and welcome both sides of the conversation. Give others a chance to speak. Try not to judge, react, or interrupt, even when you disagree. Ask questions. Repeat back what you heard to be sure you understand.
- Use people-first language. People-first language is respectful. It is a good way to help others feel seen and understood. We do this by making the person most important, not their situation. For example, we can talk about “a person experiencing homelessness” or a “person diagnosed with diabetes”, instead of, “a homeless person” or a “diabetic”.
- Include others. Value other people by including them. For example, ask people how they want to be addressed. Set an example by including your own preferred pronouns when you introduce yourself. For example, “My name is Mike and I use he/him pronouns.”
- Try to use words that are common and easy to understand. Complex words or “jargon” can prevent communication.
- Learn from mistakes. If you find yourself judging, interrupting, or using difficult words, apologize. Try to avoid the same mistake in the future.
Remember, words can be helpful or harmful. We can improve how we communicate by taking time to consider the words we use.