I am wearing a shirt my girls got me that reads, “Best Dad Ever”. By all measures it is correct. I am the best Dad my girls ever had. Of course I am their only Dad. These words however can be misleading and cause misunderstanding. For instance, someone could challenge me that they are a better Dad. Of course they would be correct if they were talking about being a Dad to their children. It can get confusing. No matter how we think about it, language is powerful and we should use it wisely.
This topic is of great importance. For example, the most important conversation is the one you have with yourself. What you tell yourself can only be contradicted by yourself. Nobody can jump in your head and change your mind unless you let them. These means what you say to yourself carries meaning – choose your words wisely. You can let others in your head by reading and watching TV. That happens a lot now during the election campaign. I encourage you to think about how candidates use words to send messages, inaccurate or accurate depending on how it is used. What is important about the language is what it causes people to do and how it impacts their actions.
One way that words trigger actions is when they remind us of values. Schwartz identified 10 Basic Values. I encourage you to review his article about those value at An Overview of Schwartz Theory of Basic Values. As he demonstrates, we all have these values, just at differing levels. He also explains these values can be triggered by words. The power of these values varies by our role in life – parent, teacher, consumer, marketer, owner, worker, etc.
The ten values he identified are grouped by Openness to Change, Self-Transcendence, Conservation, and Self-Enhancement included:
These values were used by Edward Bernays to incite a consumer revolution where he showed organizations how they could more easily sell their products if their products were associated with deeply held values such as power or freedom. He outlined how to do this in his 1928 book, “Propaganda”. The book and video also documents how he used false science. He falsely used science by creating an experiment with an expected outcome. He used bad science to falsely support an objectively bad choice, bacon and eggs. I encourage you to watch the video below to learn how he did this. In other words, he was NOT using words to promote #SelfishSelflessSynergy, but you can.
I was reminded of the power of words while reading Kate Raworth’s excellent 2017 book, “Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist”. In the book she uses the example of calling people consumers or citizens and how those words dramatically impact how people think and act. As a consumer it means people can only express your potential by buying things, but as a citizen it would inspire people to take actions to be a good member of society. Words are powerful, we must use them carefully and also carefully think about how they are being used.
Here is another example of powerful words that may impact thoughts and actions as written by Umair Haque:
Don’t you think there’s something wrong with a world where Amazon, Inc is a “person,” but the Amazon isn’t? Without personhood, the worst amongst our species — the profiteers and predators — is free to treat nature and the animals just like they once treated slaves: maim, abuse, and annihilate them, until they’ve been used up. – Umair Haque
As you know, my focus has been attempts to use words that will generate comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. I look forward to hearing how you use your words to generate #SelfishSelflessSynergy or comprehensive improvements. Please share your thoughts below. Thank you.
Please share your thoughts and questions below.