How To Talk 101

Wait, you said what now? 
Using inclusive language isn’t always the easiest thing. Society socializes it’s members with specified roles and pre-determined mindsets, beliefs, and attitudes that it can often just feel normal and comfortable to talk with vocabulary that doesn’t really do the most for the diversity gap. Language, verbal and nonverbal, is such a strange and fascinating phenomenon to observe, and be a part of. It gives culture and lends words for emotions and feelings. It can comfort, harm, inspire, disgust, persuade, deny all at once. Relationships are formed, wars are waged, and leaders are elected all upon the basis of their communication. So how can we let such a powerful tool go to the wayside in a fight for diversity and equality? We can’t, and one can start by practicing inclusive speech.

People are Individuals
Sonder – This word basically describes the realization that every person you see, even if only for a moment, holds a completely unique and intricate life story of their own. The first step into practicing inclusive speech is understanding the individuality of people.
    i. Use “person-centered” language
        a. Person experiencing Homelessness v. Homeless Person
    ii. Use words that encompass all genders
    iii. Be intentional about representing diversity in stories and curricula
    vi. Use language that reflects what people call themselves
    v. Use language that respects experiences and cultures

On an Alternative Break Program trip, a member of the group was talking about the importance of saying “Y’all” as opposed to the default “You Guys.”Even when the entire team had a grand total of 2 boys with 8 girls, we were referred as “you guys” and also referring to the group with “you guys” among ourselves. It technically was not inclusive speech because it didn’t account for all genders, particularly to the ones in the group. Now, that is one immediate practice one could incorporate into their daily language – nudge –

I was introduced to an interesting book a while back called 35 Dumb Things Well-Intentioned People Say: Surprising Things We Say That Widen the Diversity Gap by Dr. Maura Cullen. It really put language and the sentences that people, and I too, say everyday into perspective. This handout, taken “verbatim from the cited source”, states the many different phrases found in the book that are actually quite offensive.

“He is a good person. He didn’t mean anything by it.”
“I know exactly how you feel!”
Referring to older people as “cute.”

When you don’t even realize what you’ve been exactly entailing from a sentence/statement is such a bad feeling, particularly when you had meant it with a positive heart.

SO whether you’re describing people/a person, talking to someone one-on-one, with a small grouping of people, talking to a collective audience, or just thinking… PRACTICE INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE.

This has been How To Talk 101. Class dismissed.

– Gavel Drop –

6 thoughts on “How To Talk 101

  1. First off, I love your writing style!
    Second, I love this post because it’s something that people don’t talk about a lot but that absolutely NEEDS to be addressed! Everyone does this in some instance and it’s important that we address what needs to change and why. Great job!


  2. Tw: discussion/mention of rape culture

    While this article is well intentioned it misses the mark.
    -The general consensus from the disabled community is not to use person first language. Many believe that using person first sugar coats things and gives able bodied individuals an out to feel “comfortable”. Now, there may be some individuals who do wish to be addressed that way, but the general consensus from the community is to say disabled person.
    -In the examples he/she is used which isn’t inclusive language it is binary and erases others on the spectrum
    -The word “dumb” is ableist and shouldn’t be use in feminist discourse.
    -The out of place graphic of “that test raped me” appears HUGE while viewing this article on mobile. It shocked me to see that word just randomly jump out at me without any sort of trigger warning at the beginning. Not to mention you fail to discuss it at all. Casually using the word rape isn’t necessarily a discussion in inclusive language, it’s a rape culture issue.


    1. Hey, @heyiminhere!
      I really appreciate your comment and helping me learn more, since I’m pretty new to this concept.
          -I had no idea about the general consensus.. I tried to look for sources online but would you happen to have a good source of information as to keep updated?
          -Just stuck with one
          -I apologize for the graphic and lack of warning, and explanation, of it. It had made sense at the time to explain with “Use language that respects experiences” but I see how that doesn’t even begin to explain it.


    2. I disagree with some of your points. Sonder-wanderlust implicitly discusses privilege by stating the importance of using inclusive language. The blogger used he/she pronouns referring to the people they were specifically addressing. It is unreasonable to assume the blogger did not know their pronouns. Also, the word “dumb’ was used in a book title that the blogger was referencing. They continue to reiterate the impact of language. I personally believe we are all imperfect in our feminism. It almost seems like your comments have only picked apart the “errors” the blogger has “made” and not recognizing the effort that this post has made to discuss the use of language in society from the blogger’s perspective. Criticism is vital to all feminist conversations but we have to remind ourselves that there is a way of stating an opinion. Your opinion is valued but mutual respect is needed in feminist spaces. You may feel that this post “missed a mark”, but I think you missed the mark by not enabling a conversation, trying to pull rank and belittle the post and the blogger as well. We are all educated individuals, but we have to be willing to listen to each other first. It appears that you have tried to find things to pick apart from this post. You catch more bees with honey than vinegar.


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