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watch what we say


watch what we say - the damaging power of negative language

we need to watch what we say and how we say it - pejorative language can negatively influence situations - repeatedly used this can damage our appeal to others and our personal power

some definitions ...

belittle - dismiss as unimportant
critical - expressing adverse comments
degrade - treat with disrespect
deride - express contempt for
derogatory - showing a critical attitude
denigrate - criticize unfairly
deprecate - express disapproval of
dismiss - treat as unworthy of serious consideration
disparage - regard as being of little worth
pejorative - expressing contempt
vilify - speak about in an abusively disparaging manner

whilst these words are not all true synonyms, it's telling how many similar words we have for pejorative - in much the same way perhaps as Inuit people are said to have many words to describe snow - suggesting perhaps that put-downs are common in the English language and/or western culture 

bias and distortion
the language we use can distort the world around us to make it seem more acceptable to our viewpoint

a tablet computer, for example, might be seen as 'modern miracle' by those that welcome the technology but a 'newfangled contraption' to those that don't - this bias and distortion is often pejorative and negative 

prejudice is perhaps the most commonly understood form of pejorative speech - our maturing culture has taught us, over generations of unfair treatment, to be respectful to our fellow humans - it is no longer acceptable to display prejudice over race, culture, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation    

it is sad, but not rare to hear phrases like 'blonde bimbo' or 'woman driver' - to give but two examples in the area of gender alone      


with our language we can damn with faint praise - eg "that was quite good", often stressing 'quite' to make ourselves seem superior and we can put others down with statements like: "that's nonsense" or "that's ridiculous" - but we risk offending others and alienating ourselves

this particular topic is dealt with in more detail in my essay: Criticism & Confidence 

minimising and maximising

minimising and maximising are well-used techniques in sales and marketing to make things seem less or more than they really are - an example of minimising might be an insurance policy costing £36:00 per annum, promoted as 'less than 10p per day'

we subconsciously use the same techniques in our everyday speech to play down our misdemeanours - eg "I just made the slightest little remark" - and to play up offences by others - eg "their response was way over the top" - in an attempt to dilute our own mistakes and make the other party seem unreasonable

this is a more complex but very common phenomenon where we project qualities,  normally faults, onto others because we don't feel comfortable interacting with them

after a late night, we might think of the bedside clock as 'that cruel alarm' - in doing so we are projecting cruelty onto the clock - but the clock can't be cruel, it just tells the time 

in a similar way, we sometimes inappropriately project arrogance onto those more confident than ourselves, we can project snobbery onto those with more wealth or a better education than ourselves and we might project nerdiness onto those more technical than ourselves - to give but three examples 

there will of course be times when people genuinely behave arrogantly, snobbishly or nerdily - we just need to make sure we are not projecting faults that others don't deserve to placate our own discomfort


Dan Evans


we need to be careful about using pejorative language - it can cause offence and it will make us appear negative and critical, which are not endearing traits - this can damage our credibility and personal power

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