Exploring the origins, ethics and future of changemaking

Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

Beyond ‘disadvantage’: rethinking how we talk

In Language, Personal Reflections on August 4, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I have long been conscious of words, labels and how language can shape our reality. Initially my experience of labels was a personal one. Not just because of my sexuality, but indeed loads of experiences throughout my life have taught me the power and limitation of words.

After some harrowing times, at fifteen I embarked on a quest to reconstruct my world by being careful of how I spoke of myself and what I was prepared to accept from others. I had previously heard teachers and peers at school describe me in ways that I simply accepted and adopted as truth. More insidious were the words I used internally; flowing without filter or question. I was creating my world and reality in every thought.

Later in my twenties I became a teacher and heard this language from the other side. I heard teachers refer to students as bad students, good students, ADHD students, no-hopers, distracted students and more. These words were used so unconsciously and I doubt the users had awareness of their power in shaping the young people they were supposed to be serving.

This understanding of the power of language is not revelatory. The positive psychology Read the rest of this entry »

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Where change has no name

In Language on July 4, 2012 at 9:11 pm

“The day you teach the child the name of the bird, the child will never see that bird again” – Krishnamurti

I perhaps don’t understand the full depth of this quote, but what I imagine Krishnamurti was referring to was this idea that when we are born we see the sacredness in life and things around us. There is something that happens as we grow, where as we ascribe language to something, we somehow put form around it and limit our perspective of that thing. We start to see the bird according to how we define the bird, rather than as the beautiful and special movement of energy that it is.

I also heard recently that in Tibet there was and is no word for ‘guilt’. Does the word create the feeling, or the feeling create the word. Did anyone in Tibet ever experience guilt? Perhaps not. I have been wondering how much language shapes how we look at things, as much as how experiences shape our language.

In the work that I do I am so often struck by the amount of language we use to give meaning to what we are doing and creating. We identify as ‘social entrepreneurs’; involve ourselves in ‘innovation’, and battle over the true definition of ‘social enterprise’, ‘conscious capitalism’ and ‘impact investment’. We give generosity and goodwill the name ‘philanthropy’, and overtime have complicated and confused what was once Read the rest of this entry »