Phrases I’m Choosing Not to Say Anymore

I really identify with the term “liberal snowflake.” I suppose it is meant to be an insult, but I really treasure the uniqueness and value of each human being, and I want everyone to have access to resources that serve their physical and emotional well-being.

I am in a new role as a racial equity instructional coach for teachers at my work, and I’ve been pondering some of the phrases spoken to me these last few months that don’t sit quite right with me. I know how sensitive I am going to sound. And I’m okay with that.

Here they are:

“Let me be the devil’s advocate real quick…”

Here’s my truth: The devil doesn’t need an advocate. I believe the devil is always at work trying to manipulate good plans and good people. When I hear this said to me, I start to feel unheard. I’m starting to feel like this term is a product of the patriarchy- like “Hey let me be a jerk, but get away with it because I’m playing devil’s advocate.”

What I’d say instead: Can I offer a different perspective? or Have we considered multiple perspectives?

“You know I’m just giving you a hard time, right?”

My stance: Times are hard enough, for many of us. There are a lot of challenges, some very visible and some very invisible. I can’t know what someone is experiencing unless I am a trustworthy friend who asks and learns. So I like to posture myself in a way that always assumes the benefit of the doubt. In fact, I actually like to treat people as though it is their birthday. If I were to “give someone a hard time” even in jest, and find out later that they are going through a literal real hard time or that it is their birthday, I’d feel crummy.

What I’d say instead: Is it okay to joke about _____________ with you?

“They are playing the victim.”

Oof, this one really triggers me. I have come to a place where I firmly believe that when someone tells me a story about themselves or their experience, I can hold that information as that person’s truth. Who am I to question their lived experience? Earlier this school year, something was really hurting me, and I found the courage to name it. I was told that I was “really good at playing the victim” and that hurt. I believe both parties in conflict can be in pain at the same time.

What I’d say instead: There’s a disconnect happening somewhere that I’m not fully understanding. I’m going to try to learn more of where that person is coming from.”

“I’ll deal with them later.”

This is a phrase that has many variations, but mostly it’s been coming to my attention when talking about interactions with students. “I’m not sure how to deal with (student)” or “I asked so and so to deal with them”… those sorts of phrases. What comes up for me is that dealing reminds me of playing cards, and managing or handling them. When I think about students, I really try to humanize them. They’re kids, and they need conversation and relationship, not handling.

What I’d say instead: I’m going to make time to check in with so-and-so, or I’ll do some brainstorming around how I can better serve so-and-so.

“Threw me under the bus.”

I don’t know why, but this phrase never sits right with me. It’s so sad and violent and purposeful and mean. We teach a concept at school called intent versus impact where I can have positive intentions that still have a negative impact, and I’m still responsible for the impact I have on others. I believe there are people who do want to cause harm, but there are many who do not. Sometimes we need help processing the impact our words have on each other rather than assuming I had poor intentions. It takes a lot of courage to actually talk to people

What I’d say instead: “Hey, when you said _________, what I made up about that was _______ and it impacted me in this way: ________.”

Is anyone else hurt by these phrases? Is anyone else with me in trying to be a clearer and kinder communicator?

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