Clean your language filters every once in a while — you’ll thank us for that bit of advice, which is actually worth more than you’re paying for it. Of course, since you’re paying zero for it….
As adults, we’ve learned to have all kinds of filters at hand to mask or qualify the things we really want to say. We use some of the same filters to strain the stuff we hear from others, often because we want to insulate ourselves from things we refuse to accept or just don’t like.
The junk that’s built up in our language filter system has, in fact, screwed things up royally. Just think about how often we go out of our way to avoid saying as directly and honestly what we actually mean. We soften truths; we rub them smooth and shrink them down and limit them so that they have no teeth — but at least they’re acceptable to others who don’t want to negotiate for personal validation or have us challenge their views. Too often, that sort of challenge appears to be a personal attack, so not saying what we really mean is usually the safer course of action.
We do this at the personal level, obviously. Unfortunately, we’ve also decided that we should do this at the level of groups and whole societies. We’ve become afraid of truth; we’ve become afraid of mistakes, especially those that might offend others who insist that you ought to do and think and say things their way.
That’s the definition of political correctness.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not wrong to say what you mean.
Of course, the downside of all this is that we tend to build up a lot of frustration and anger. Then, when there’s a verbal challenge to an ego-belief (a position or idea we hold so dear that it defines our ego, at least in part), our filters go haywire. We’re overly sensitized as a result, and we may become enraged because the challenge seems so personal. It becomes an attack, a hostile act requiring defensive maneuvers and retaliation — often with “extreme prejudice.”
If you need proof of this, all you have to do is listen to partisan debates over sensitive social or political issues. The participants may start off with a goal of compromise in mind, but it usually doesn’t take long for things to go downhill. Pretty quickly, the parties climb on soap boxes and yell their positions at one another, often using insulting language that has more to do with provocation than discussion. It’s sort of like the way democratic governments routinely operate, as the soap boxes are built right into the structure of government. It’s not a stretch to think of examples involving political parties who seem willing to let their country slide into the toilet if they can’t get a resolution to an issue on their terms, rather than the other guy’s.
A tip: contrary to popular belief, it’s not wrong to say what you mean, or to express a position that others may view as being politically incorrect. It’s okay to take a stand that’s unpopular. Your refusal to validate others’ ideas or beliefs because you disagree doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. Nobody is entitled to coerce you into agreeing with them because God is on their side. Nor are you entitled to pull that sort of nonsense with others. You’ll get much farther if your intent and your filters reflect a willingness to compromise and tolerate, rather than a need to coerce, enforce or defend. You can accept more easily; you can turn away more easily.
There’s a balance, always, in deciding how you’re going to address an issue. In cleaning your language filters, you want to be sure you get rid of any politically correct language you might be tempted to use to explain your views (unless, of course, you’re one of those who thinks it’s a good idea that the tail wag the dog). You also have to decide on what you’re trying to achieve when you express yourself. If the object of the game is clarity, understanding and compromise, you won’t achieve any of those things by using pop culture references or politically charged language and vocabulary. You can’t really insult or browbeat anyone into seeing it your way for very long, and you don’t have to let anyone use language to pressure you so that they can feel validated.
Clarity, simplicity and honesty above all — your first priorities. Having someone like you (or not dislike you) because of what you have to say is far less important. You do NOT require the validation of everybody you know in order to stick to your guns and hold your own position.
And just FYI? If you get into the habit of speaking and responding to others directly and honestly all the time, whether they’re strangers or family members, two things will happen. You’ll condition them to expect only directness and candor from you, and they’ll like that because they’ll always know where they stand with you. You’ll also condition yourself to address issues and sensitivities when they arise, and not days or weeks later when you’ve gotten yourself bent out of shape and are likely to over-react.
Tell others what you need; offer to others what you expect for yourself. If you can do that in thought and speech, your language filters will stay pretty clean, and over time, your ego-based need for the validation of others will diminish.
That’s a good thing.