Skip to content

Language, leadership and setting norms

October 15, 2016

“High thoughts must have high language” Aristophanes.

If this is so, then we are in big, I mean huge, trouble.

I can barely stand to  listen to the news these days because the Presidential race has debased itself so much. I am shocked at how easily news outlets repeat inappropriate language – or people at the water cooler for that matter. It’s so prevalent, people feel brave yelling “F- her in the P-” to female reporters when they are broadcasting. It has become a strange source of pride.

Let’s be clear, it’s not that I’ve never heard bad language or that I am a prude. The reason I am concerned is I believe in the power of words to inform, to persuade and to create emotion. More importantly, I believe that the type of language used and accepted establishes norms around what’s ok to say to people, to think of them and to do to them. It is very well established that action follows language. If I think of you as an “it” or an “other” then I can justify treating you in a way that I would ordinarily find appalling.

So at the same time as people are normalising “p—y” there is backlash on the use of Indigenous slurs for sports team names. So misogyny is ok but racism is not. Can you imagine a presidential candidate using the N-word in 2016? Why don’t we just say no to both?

And, instead of empty hand wringing, diminishing bad language by calling it “locker room talk” or deflecting by saying there are larger issues that need attention, leaders need to call it out and put a stop to it. In the RCMP, in the Canadian and US military, on university campuses, in organisations and families everywhere  we need to denounce language that demeans. Period.

I found this image on quoteschart.com. It provides a far better conclusion than I could and frankly… I am speechless. We need to alter where we are going and quickly.

language-quotes-meme

source: http://www.quoteschart.com/language-quotes/

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2016 1:03 pm

    To classify people as an “it” or an “other” does in the minds of many justify atrocities and allow for limitless scapegoating. In the case of our election, it makes for a kind of debased entertainment that the media is only to willing to absorb. And it’s ironic that a television industry that has purported to respect our children by establishing a rating system, would allow such behavior on prime time. Perhaps, we should establish a definite behavior code for all candidates in a televised debate.

    • October 16, 2016 2:00 pm

      Isn’t it deplorable though that you would even have to reestablish that as a norm? These people are supposed to be role models. They, and others, are eroding trust in the democratic process. It’s a tragedy.

  2. October 16, 2016 5:42 pm

    It is deplorable, but for me the role models for moral behavior are parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors. Growing up, I never saw one of our political leaders as a model for morality. I think this expectation has been fostered by a media that is almost like a fourth branch of government. I do expect from my politicians good leadership, a skill in diplomacy, an ability to draw others together in an international sense, and to be astute problem solvers that remain calm in the wake of a crisis.

    • October 17, 2016 7:44 am

      I hear what you’re saying but I do expect leaders in an organisation: school principals, CEO, political leaders to set a basic norm for behaviour.

      Thank you so much for commenting!

  3. October 17, 2016 1:50 pm

    You are spot on Dominique!

    It seems as the years go by our society becomes more and more lenient/permissive/less caring about the kinds of words we find acceptable to use in everyday life. As technology and media have come to dominate our culture, 30 second sound bites and 140 character tweets have become the norm of how we communicate. We should strive for so much more, and our leaders (in all realms) should be the ones modeling the way.

    My best,

    Randy

    • October 17, 2016 2:20 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Randy. I agree completely. We could do with less shock, more class and better content!

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: