I had two Road to Damascus (I’ve started already….) episodes earlier in the month. One was listening to an interview with Rebecca Hulbert who has developed Language Creates Reality, which I will come back to in a minute. The other was with a MD of a small firm who said on a Zoom with me “I am looking to get in a head of sales, someone who can think outside the box, has a bit of blue sky thinking…” I’ve love to say that I have embellished that a bit, but I haven’t. It stuck with me that he was using those phrases instead of “I need to hire someone who is creative in their thinking, had a track record of innovation”. I think that is what he meant, I think… but I’m not entirely sure.
I remember my mother saying to me that swearing was just a lack of good vocabulary and I believe that is partially true, sometimes it is done for effect or impact. I would put phrases like “blue sky thinking” in the same box. Back in the early 2000s you may remember that David Beckham became the most hated man in England. It’s astounding to think how he has rehabilitated himself since that sending-off in the World Cup. I thought the more long-term impact of that incident with Diego Simeone was that at the time the commentator used the word “petulant” to describe Beckham’s reaction on being fouled and his frustrated retaliation. Since that fateful day in 2002, every football pundit and commentator has used petulant or petulance to describe any incident where a player gets a bit worked up over something. It’s incredible how quickly people latch onto a highly descriptive word and also, when not really understanding it, can use it in the wrong context, particularly when that person is not actually being petulant!
When I was at college, I had a part-time job at a computer company. It was the best job I ever had, I had to write the weekly newsletter, press releases, sort out marketing literature and produce product briefs for their equipment. Goodness knows why they got a 17 year old lad to do it. Every week I would sit down with the very scary Tony the Sales Director and ask for the week’s news. One particular week, Tony said, “Right-ho David, this week I want to tell the troops where they should be focussed. It’s all about attitude controlling their altitude.” I was busy scribbling this all down, slightly confused but also worried I would be sending out quite a shouty company newsletter. “Say this to them, David. They’ve got to keep their shoulder to the wheel, ear to the ground, put their back into their work, have their best foot forward and keep their eyes peeled” I now look back and think that Tony was either have a joke with me, most likely, or really couldn’t say what he meant.
So, back to the other Road to Damascus moment. I was watching the news and they had a interview with Rebecca Hulbert who has spent time looking at the way that people describe Down Syndrome. It had a profound effect on me. After she had her son Arthur who is a child with Down Syndrome, she noticed people including medical professionals talked about him in a way that was at odds with other non-Down’s Syndrome children. Whilst it occurred to me that what she has produced a contemporary and appropriate approach for talking about Down Syndrome, it could and should be applied to any minority group.
I would recommend you seek out www.languagecreatesreality.com it will rock your world.
I always thought I had a more progressive mindset but no, I didn’t. It has had a permanent impact on me and the words and phrases I use to describe certain situations.
As they say on X Factor it’s a journey not a destination…. hope you agree.