Semantics Matter (Reclaiming the Meaning of our Words)

Semantics Matter (Reclaiming the Meaning of our Words) 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Words are important.  And as we become increasing submerged in social media, instant messaging blogging, and email as primary forms of communication, the importance of words is becoming amplified.  The less we communicate face to face, or even voice to voice, the more critical it becomes to use the right words because the impact of inflection and body language are lost.

But, I feel like we are getting more careless by the day in how we use our words.  We have taken words that once had a specific and powerful meaning, and stripped them of their dignity.  I’m not suggesting heading down a path of recommending the creation of a “word police” or some revision of our free speech rights.  People should be entitled to use whatever words they want, I just think we all need to be more intentional and thoughtful in the words we choose to use.

For example, take the word “hate.”  When you really dig into the depth of what this word means, it represents a powerful and dangerous emotion.  Hatred is heavy and it has caused some otherwise decent people to do some pretty horrific things to other people throughout history.  It’s a word that packs a lot of punch.  And yet, we say things like “I hate it when my spell checker misses a word” or “I hate it when people forget to turn in their TPS report.”  That’s not hate.  My wife and I have forbidden the use of this word in our house, not because of limiting speech, but rather because we don’t believe in giving voice to this destructive emotion.  “Hate” is not a word to be tossed around.  When you use it, it should be with intention.

In the business world, we are expert at taking meaningful words and stripping them of their dignity.  Take one of my favorite phrases, “performance management,” as an example.  When you just consider the two words and what that phrase means, it’s important stuff.  It’s by pairing this powerful phrase with efforts and processes that are often poorly designed or worse, pointless and harmful, that these words have lost their power.  And too often we’ve just stood by and watched as this injustice has taken place.

So, here’s a list of some of the words that I’d like to put on your radar with the hope that we can begin a movement to reclaim them.  They are too important and hold too much promise to not fight for them.

  • Leader
  • Love
  • Passion
  • Hate
  • Friend
  • Authentic
  • Accountable
  • Best
  • Team
  • Talent
  • Diversity
  • Perform
  • Communication
  • Leadership
The list could probably go on for days.  What words do you want to add to the list and why?  And how shall we reclaim them?  

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