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In Buzz, June 2022 by Melissa HowsamLeave a Comment

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Words can hurt. Learn to lead with inclusive language

Ever used terms or expressions that are unintentionally loaded or offensive (think: master bedroom, you guys, that’s lame). Turns out no matter how many times you said “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” as a child—what you say can and does hurt people. 

And because the language we use directly impacts our social connections, it’s essential to equip ourselves with inclusive language—and avoid age-old terms and phrases that, while their use may be part of mainstream discourse, are discriminatory.

Enter the just-released The Inclusive Language Handbook: A Guide to Better Communication and Transformational Leadership, authored by The Diversity Movement Managing Editor Roxanne Bellamy and Head of Content and Programming Jackie Ferguson—the latter of whom was also one of our fabulous 40s & Fearless winners! (As a quick refresh, The Diversity Movement helps “organizations deliver real-world business outcomes through diversity, equity and inclusion” via data, technology and expert content.)

Not just a vague “how-to” guide, The Inclusive Language Handbook helps readers recognize and consciously avoid words that alienate and offend by unintentionally reinforcing cultural notions (think gender, race, sexual orientation, age, ability)—and choose intentional welcoming and respectful word choices. This is not about being politically correct. It’s about being inclusive—and demonstrating you value unique cultures, communities and identities.

“Sustainable business and strong relationships both rely on one thing—good communication,” says Ferguson. “In speaking with thousands of people on this topic, I’ve found that many of us are not always sure what to say in every situation in our increasingly diverse society.” In the workplace specifically, she adds, “repeating harmful language over time creates a toxic company culture, high employee turnover and a damaged reputation.”

Thus, inclusive language should be at the cornerstone of our word choice, and learning how to do that—from the boardroom to the bar—well, we definitely want to take a page out of that book.

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