The Importance of Language

By Jenn Rockefeller

Earlier in 2019, Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence (BTSADV) published an article centering on the language we use when talking about domestic violence. The article discussed how language is the most vital part of who we are as a society. We use language to communicate our thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Sometimes, though, when certain words are used, their meaning can get diluted or lost in translation because we may use the incorrect word to convey our thought thereby bringing a whole different meaning to what we are saying.

When we are talking to domestic violence survivors, it is vital to use words that carry a more positive tone to them. 

Why?

According to Connections Magazine, “Positive language is the art of using words and phrases to communicate a positive, supportive tone to your employees, customers, and anyone else you meet.” 

The importance of positive language

Using positive language in any situation helps lift up those around you. It creates a more optimistic and confident frame of mind. By merely using more positive words, we can change the entire perspective of a conversation. For example, when talking with domestic violence survivors, using positive language will let the survivors know you are supportive of them and willing to help however you can. In contrast, if you use negative language, it can exacerbate the feelings that survivors are already feeling. They will subconsciously shape their thoughts into reality. For example, when the abuser says something like, “You’re ugly” or “You’re stupid” enough times, the survivor will dwell upon that and begin to believe it, thereby bringing those thoughts to fruition. 

Why it’s important to use positive language 

It’s important to use positive language because the words we use can have a serious impact on those we talk to. When we talk with domestic violence survivors, we need to be aware of the words we use. Survivors are so accustomed to hearing negativity that we don’t want to continue that negative pattern. Instead, when we use more positive language, we are letting survivors know that we support them and want them to have a more peaceful and confident future. 

It’s important to use positive language because, over time, we are helping survivors rephrase those negative words and thoughts into more positive ones. For example, in the beginning we may say words like “your abuser.” This only serves one purpose – to continue giving power to the abuser. Instead, say something like “the person who abused you.” The latter takes away the abuser’s power and depersonalizes them. It places the survivor in a better frame of mind to begin their healing journey.

The importance of language

Language is an important tool within our society. We need to be more aware of how we talk to someone. That’s not to say we always need to walk on eggshells, but being more aware of not just what we say, but also how we say it will help create a more positive world to live in. Words are a powerful tool. Let’s use those words to create a more peaceful world.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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