The Powerful Effect of Everyday Language
How our words have a global impact in business and in life
Owning an online business, a business that supports your lifestyle and dreams, can seem exciting and freeing. So many of us dream about what it would be like to run off to some faraway tropical location, sit on a beach while we work with the sunshine overhead and the cool breeze coming off the ocean.
And while that is all totally possible in the 21st century, what we don’t always take into consideration is that we’re no longer just working in our small local community.
As an online business, you can reach people across all 7 continents (yes, even Antarctica) and the global impact can be amazingly positive and productive or the exact opposite, negative and retrogressive.
Even if you’re not in some tropical location – you may be working from home in the snowy heartland of the United States – you are still running an international online business and you are still making an impact.
Small Words Big Impact
Just because you can’t see the direct correlations, the words you use, the actions you take, all create ripples out across the internet ether for all to find, see and read.
How do you want to show up in the online world?
What kind of impact do you want to make?
Here’s a good example to consider. And really, this is appropriate whether you’re running an online business, a brick and mortar or even just how you show up as a human being:
Recently, an online businesswoman in a Facebook group asked for opinions on her tagline which was using a derogatory term towards women. She said herself that she knew it was derogatory, so this wasn’t my opinion.
Many women said they liked it. A few people said no, they didn’t like it, but they also didn’t give much of a reason.
I did share my opinion though and said it was both archaic and sexist (these days, I’m not one to really sugarcoat issues surrounding humanity). I wrote that as much as she was trying to be sarcastic and quirky, which is her brand, that it forces us back into the 1950’s and puts a negative light on women.
She eventually got to a point where she didn’t want to argue with me anymore and agreed to disagree – saying that obviously, this was a problem in Costa Rica, where I live, but in the US and UK, women don’t have equal rights issues and therefore her derogatory, disempowering language wouldn’t be an issue.
It would appear she is unaware of the millions of women in both countries – and around the world – who are continuously disempowered and having to fight and stand up for equal rights. In both their personal lives and their professional lives.
To be seen and heard. To be treated with respect. Really, to be seen as a human being.
Past and Present – These problems still exist
Our developed world is mostly built on a patriarchal society. One in which predominantly, men are in power: making decisions, laws and setting the “standards” for society.
There is an enormous amount of research around gender bias, how we normally choose the masculine over the feminine, as the latter is often seen as weak, ineffective and powerless.
But on the flipside, matriarchal societies aren’t necessarily – in my opinion – perfect either. I believe in balance. Where we respect and listen to each other’s opinions and find a way to create an equilibrium between the masculine and feminine. It’s the yin and yang, light and dark – we can’t have one without the other. We must exist together.
Helen Keller said: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
And yet, nearly 50 years since her passing, we continue to be separated — we don’t have that balance — and inequalities still exist because we see and hear these words being used all the time and never take a moment to truly consider: what actual harm does it really cause?
What Your Words Are Really Saying
Using derogatory terms, even if they are mainstream and seen by many as funny, casual or sarcastic, only perpetuates the negative stereotypes that so many people have fought against for decades, even centuries, now.
You run or throw like a girl, boys will be boys, take it like a man, boys don’t cry, that’s a woman’s job, stop nagging me (most often said to women, or to a man but sarcastically implying that he’s acting like a woman in a demeaning way).
Just some of the many mainstream expressions that many people, around the globe, use every day and don’t even think anything of it. It’s ingrained in our societies. Using these terms allows for us to continue to keep our genders separate and often times, that one is better than the other. It also allows for the cycle to continue to the next generation.
It gives permission for people to treat others differently, to be seen as annoying or “less-than” or to excuse bad behavior.
Breaking the cycle
Let’s break the cycle of hateful, demeaning language towards either gender. And let’s stop being tolerant of people who use such language.
As not just a business owner but as a human being, you have the opportunity to challenge the status quo.
You can still be your quirky, fun self – but look deeply at your words, how they may be perceived by people all around the world who can find your website and ask yourself – is my sarcasm degrading or is it uplifting and supportive?
Is the use of this word demeaning to others?
Language is powerful.
Our language not only shapes who we are but also the actions we take out in the world.
Let’s start using language that both empowers and teaches others how to have a positive impact on the global community.
Here’s your challenge.
How will you begin to mindfully take note of the negativity you may be using in your everyday language as well as make a shift to focus on the positive aspects of both genders, creating a more whole and balanced way of thinking, speaking and acting?