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Common Words We Use That Hurt Others

Common Words We Use That Hurt Others

Everyday conversation is essential to several aspects of life such as maintaining relationships (business and personal), building trust and credibility and creating a pleasurable experience for yourself and others. It comes as no surprise therefore that conversation skills are one of the most basic skills needed to function well in everyday society. One of the most important conversation skills for you to have is the ability to avoid using offensive or hurtful language. This becomes especially difficult when you are not aware that the words you use are actually considered hurtful. Slang words and colloquialisms commonly used by the younger generation can also be unknowingly offensive. To assist with this confusion, here are a few common words or phrases which you may or may not know are actually hurtful.

1. “Gay”

This word doesn’t mean ‘happy’ anymore. It is more renowned as a word synonymous with homosexuals. In a society where it is already difficult enough for these people to fit in, it doesn’t help when the word ‘gay’ is now used to describe a stupid or unfortunate situation. Everyday we can hear people say: “I hate this museum, it’s so gay.” When used in the wrong circumstance, ‘gay’ can be incredibly offensive especially around homosexuals. They probably don’t appreciate hearing that they are being used to describe something boring or underwhelming.

2. “Retarded”

This word is commonly used to describe a situation that is crazy or doesn’t make sense, e.g.: “That exam was so retarded.” It is easy to forget that there are mentally challenged people out there. Mentally retarded people and their loved ones would certainly not appreciate hearing themselves compared to something that is considered crazy or unintelligible. These people struggle through life and out of respect, the ‘R’ word is best kept out of your everyday vocabulary.

3. “It was just a joke”

If a person has trouble tolerating whatever you just said, chances are they won’t believe you say you weren’t serious. No matter how close you are as friends or family, if you make an offensive comment and expect them to take it as a joke, it might be a little to much to ask. Although you may have had good intentions, it always pays to be careful about what you say out loud, especially if you know the person is a little bit sensitive.

4. “Never mind, you don’t get it”

Nobody likes being left out of the loop, and used in the wrong context, this can make it sound like you left the person out on purpose. Although you may have only meant for it to be a quick dismissal of a subject, it could come off as rude and flippant, which destroys relationships rather than maintains them. Next time try providing an explanation, no matter how brief.

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5. “This makes me want to kill myself”

You probably only meant it as a figure of speech, however in certain situations, for example, around a person who has experienced the loss of a loved one through suicide, it can create a very awkward situation. Since you never really know these details about every person you happen to talk to, it might be best to avoid using this phrase altogether.

6. “I feel so bipolar today”

Being bipolar isn’t as simple as having a tiny mood swing throughout a day. Mental disorders are stressful and complicated, way beyond the understanding of a person without a mental disability. Certain people, perhaps with bipolar loved ones can be easily offended by your choice of using the word. Without a thorough understanding of the term, it might be worth considering another term to describe your moods on a crazy day.

7. “You’re adopted”

There should be no good reason to use this phrase in conversation with someone obviously not adopted. It becomes an issue when you use the phrase in inappropriate situations. For example: “You are nothing like your siblings. It’s like you’re adopted or something.” A person with a good sense of humor probably wouldn’t mind too much, however some people are less humorous and would potentially be offended at this statement. These kinds of assumptions, regardless of intention, can be dangerous in conversation.

8. “You_____like a girl”

Girls around the word, especially feminists, find this statement incredibly  insulting. Statements such as: “You walk like a girl” are usually said with intentions to insult. While it can be argued that it was meant as a joke, especially towards a very good friend or family member, it can also be rude if used in the wrong situation with the wrong crowd.

9. “Black”

It is controversial, however while you may have only intended to point out the color of their skin, some people are sensitive about the use of the word. They may feel as though it marginalizes them into a minority and it either offend them or makes the, uncomfortable.

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Rather than using the word ‘black’, it might be more practical to label them by ethnicity instead, for example, African American.

10. “Nigga”

This word becomes problematic in modern times where the term ‘nigga’ is now used almost an endearment to a person you are close to. The word is renowned in popular music for example in the song My Nigga by YG. However looking at the racist origins or the word ‘Nigger’, from which it was developed, it comes as no surprise that it remains offensive to a lot of people. It would be wise to remain cautious about using the word around people you aren’t extremely familiar with, regardless of the context.

11. “Spastic”

This word is often used in the context of something weird or dysfunctional, for example: “The electricity has been going really spastic today.” While it seems to be an appropriate way to describe the unusual behavior of electricity that day, it may not be amusing to those who find spasms to be a sensitive topic. Similarly to a few of the other words on this list, it may be best not to use words which you don’t have a thorough understanding with.

12. “Midget”

It is important to note that some people can be sensitive about height, and referring to someone as a ‘midget’ may sound like you are marginalizing them and taking it as a negative thing, Without intent to insult, it is understandable that you may have been using this term to describe short people your whole life. However it might be a good idea to find a word which sounds a bit less offensive towards people lacking in height.

13. “Nazi”

Granted that you well acquainted with the concept of Nazi Germany, you should know that the usage of this word has changed slightly over the years. ‘Nazi’ is often used to describe a person who is strict, with a very rigid personality. It is easy to understand that using this word to describe someone can be incredibly offensive. Next time, it might be better to call them ‘rigid’ rather than comparing them to a rather controversial race of people.

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14. “Take a chill pill”

When a person is stressed, this is possibly the worst thing to say to them in a difficult situation. To them it could imply that you expect them to easily get over their problems and makes you sound like they don’t matter. This can be intended to be used in a joking manner, however in the wrong situation it can actually be really hurtful toward a person.

15. “I don’t care”

This is a very common phrase for someone to say in a variety of situations, and it is obvious that it can easily offend. It is never nice to say that you don’t care about something or someone, even in a joking manner. To those who are a bit more sensitive. they might take your words more seriously than you think. Altogether, it is best to assume that this phrase is offensive in most situations.

16. “You’re just confused”

Even if you are right, it is deeply offensive if you make them sound stupid. More often than not you might think you know the whole story in a particular situation, but chances are, you don’t. Be polite to a person in a situation of crisis. It might help maintain your relationship if you offer your support rather than dismissing their situation.

17. “What’s the point?”

Although you may have asked this from a viewpoint of curiosity, it is easy for this statement to sound offensive. Depending on the sensitivity or the person and the circumstance, you might sound like you are dismissing their explanation before they even try explaining. It sounds rude and there are many more polite ways to ask about the purpose of an action.

18. “You’re too uptight”

People have certain passions and motives, and to imply they are ‘too uptight’ can be extremely hurtful. If they feel strongly about something and you don’t understand why, it might still be better to ask them why rather than unintentionally suggest that it doesn’t matter.

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19. “Have you been living under a rock?”

This is a very popular expression used with people who are less aware of the world around them than most. Keep in mind that they are probably not aware of this fact and implying that they are ignorant, even in a joking manner can come across are offensive. Some people are more attuned to their surroundings than most, however it is no reason to criticize those who are less worldly than you.

20. “You’re not that stupid”

Although this is usually meant as a compliment, certain situations can turn it into an insult instead. For example, if someone close to you wants to do something you know is harmful, you will be inclined to make a comment along the lines of: “Don’t do it, you’re not that stupid.” At this stage, it can be taken as offensive, since it implies that they aren’t smart enough to make their own decisions. Overall, this phrase might do more harm than good in most situations.

Featured photo credit: Hurtful words via google.com.au

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Elizabeth Andal

Elizabeth is a passionate writer who shares about lifestyle tips and lessons learned in life on Lifehack.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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