Why Telling People How to Speak Will Always Backfire

Oct 31, 2023

In today's world, social media platforms and workplaces are often ablaze with posts and comments attempting to regulate the way people speak. Whether it's a plea to stop using certain terms or to avoid specific expressions, these messages are often well-intentioned, aiming to create a more inclusive and considerate environment. However, more often than not, these attempts to control language end up causing more harm than good.

The issue at the heart of this matter is the approach itself. When individuals resort to commanding others to change their speech without considering the underlying reasons and without offering any positive incentives, they risk alienating their audience and causing resentment. In this blog post, we will explore why instructing people on how to speak is counterproductive, and why a more constructive approach is essential for promoting meaningful change.

  1. Judgmental Language Policing

One of the primary reasons why telling people how to speak backfires is the inherent judgment and preachiness that comes with it. When someone posts, "Stop saying [insert word here]," or "Don't say [insert word here]," it often feels like an imposition, as if they are scolding or reprimanding others. This judgmental tone is not conducive to fostering open and productive conversations. Instead of motivating change, it can cause resistance and defensiveness.

  1. Resistance to Authoritarianism

Human nature tends to resist being told what to do or how to speak. Attempts to control language can be seen as authoritarian, leading people to rebel against the directives. It's essential to remember that communication is a complex, ever-evolving entity influenced by culture, context, and personal experience. People want the freedom to express themselves naturally, which is a fundamental aspect of communication.

  1. Missed Opportunities for Understanding

When individuals are more focused on dictating what others should say, they often miss an opportunity to engage in a meaningful conversation. Rather than approaching the topic with an open mind, they are set on achieving a predetermined outcome. This leads to missed opportunities for understanding, empathy, and constructive dialogue.

A Better Approach: Show, Don't Tell

If we truly want to encourage change and create a more inclusive environment, we should consider adopting a "show, don't tell" approach. Instead of commanding people to stop using certain terms, we can actively demonstrate the value of alternative language choices. Here are a few tips on how to do this:

  1. Lead by Example: Be a role model by using inclusive language and promoting respectful communication. When others see the benefits of your approach, they may naturally follow suit.

  2. Educate and Raise Awareness: Share information about the impact of certain words or phrases and how they can be perceived by different groups. Foster awareness and understanding rather than issuing commands.

  3. Encourage Dialogue: Create spaces for open conversations where people can discuss the importance of using inclusive language. Encourage questions and provide answers with patience and empathy.

  4. Highlight the Benefits: Emphasize the positive outcomes of using more inclusive language. Explain how it can improve teamwork, create a more welcoming environment, and enhance relationships.

In conclusion, telling people how to speak will always backfire because it often comes across as judgmental, authoritarian, and unproductive. If we truly want to promote change, we must take a more empathetic, educational, and inclusive approach. By showing the benefits of using different language, we can create a more understanding and respectful environment where people are motivated to communicate more thoughtfully. Remember, the power of persuasion lies not in dictating what others should say, but in guiding them toward the path of positive change.

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.