How do we say the right thing?
In a time in our world where being politically correct seems impossible, how do we still speak, shout out, and connect with others without offending them or saying the wrong thing?
The truth is, the language surrounding different causes is constantly changing. Our society is constantly growing in our ability to articulate our experiences. Yet, at the same time, it becomes hard to be up to date about what to say to those we love to be encouraging and to advocate well.
For instance, last April the Autism Society requested a name switch, no longer calling April Autism awareness month but rather Autism acceptance month. A few years ago, using the term black to describe someone’s race was much less accepted than it is today, whereas now some even prefer it over the term African American. Updates of those with cancer on social media often get comments on their posts such as “you got this!” but many feel discouraged by comments such as these.
So what do you say?
Rather than give a list of accepted phrases which will change, I’ve found that one thing is a consistent way to learn how to say the right thing: relationships.
it’s all about relationships.
When you are able to develop real and honest relationships with people, it opens the door to ask questions and have real honest responses. Your friends and family members may be encouraged by something where others are not. One friend you have may prefer identifying as “black” where another prefers “African American.” We can’t let fear of saying the wrong thing stop us from speaking to begin with. Doing nothing is rarely the best response. We will sometimes say the wrong thing, but having honest relationships allows us to learn.
At the end of the day, we’ll just have to be humble, ask questions, and sit with people. Ask them what you can do to be an encouragement, how to advocate for them, and what support looks like to them.
There really is no perfect phrase. There are plenty of wrong ones, and we will discover those as we build honest relationships and learn to say the right things.