Am I an Ableist? 5 Ways to Stop Putting Your Foot In Your Mouth

Wonder why no one is laughing at your jokes? Why no one sits with you at lunch or stands near you on public transit? You’ve tried every shampoo and deodorant from the local supermarket to the expensive ones on, yet people still flee as if you smell like garbage. But maybe it’s not your stench – maybe it’s your language.

While you might be saying something that you grew up hearing, and you aren’t meaning any harm, your words might have an offensive connotation to someone else. This means your word choice might be ableist or non-inclusive.


Photo by BreakingLinea, CC

It’s just a saying though, why should it matter? Because words have power; language frames the way we see the world (even subconsciously). So while you think it’s just a harmless saying, you might be reinforcing negative stereotypes and prejudice about other people.

But have no fear, I have five ways to fix your problem, so you can go restore your social glory.


Photo by George Hodan, CC

1. Get a thesaurus. Tired of your chronic foot in mouth syndrome? You can get a book, download an app, pull up a website, or get a specialist who can follow you around offering consultation; the format is your choice. They all do the same job: giving you access to non-offensive words and adjectives. Your options are endless.

2. Bite your tongue. Or participate in behavioral therapy; condition those bad habits out of your life, and experience lasting results! Or you could just think before you speak, and make sure that your word choice is not degrading or offensive to anyone’s identity or ability. If you are having difficulty watching your words, practice not responding and eventually you will begin to

3. Create your own words. I find this to be most beneficial because you can properly express the feeling without having to wonder whether or not it’s offensive – and it might even become fetch, if enough people like it, and end up on UrbanDictionary or even the Oxford dictionary!

4. Hold your breath and listen. Instead of talking, take a step back and hear out what other people have to say. It also shows people that you care, so you get extra brownie points.

5. Ask questions. If you don’t understand why your language might be hurting someone, I guarantee they will appreciate it if you ask why it’s wrong and listen, rather than arguing that it’s just a metaphor or brushing off their feelings.


Photo by BreakingLinea, CC

There are 171,476 words in current use in the English language, according to the Oxford dictionary. If you can’t find the right word to express your thoughts (which is difficult because English has a lot of words which mean basically the same thing), consider trying out German which has words for everything!

Other great articles for further reading:


Featured image credit: Eric Kilby, CC

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s