Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Word Choice and Your Station in Life

I think I've been reading too much about life in medieval england recently, so my mind is clouded with thoughts of peasants, yeoman and lords. Still, none of them seemed to have adequate plumbing, so I'll stick to our own century. But, it has my mind a bit more caste-oriented than usual... 

Which leads me to wonder:  In the same way that smiling makes you happy, does word choice determine your rank? 

I've recently heard or read people using phrases like "I've been directed" and "I take orders." These aren't particularly junior people, but I suppose they aren't particularly senior either. They are the yeoman of the organizational society, and have every right to take a leadership role, but somehow, they are locked into the verbal patterns of a serf. And, by using words like that, others seem inclined to give them more specific direction - not trusting them to take initiative, in part because they characterize themselves as not taking initiative.

The truth is, the work they do would be exactly the same if they said "I'm leading the XYZ effort." They would be seen as proactive, even if they had been given the task. But, old habits die hard. It also somehow removes accountability for the decision to pursue XYZ, since they are simply taking orders. The effort, either way, is the same. The outcome is the same. But, they don't get the same credit for the same work, subconciously.

It makes me wonder what words I'm using that may be negating my own contributions... 

1 comment:

Priya said...

Beware the unqualified serf!

I can't think of anything you've said that specifically counts.