Think about how you felt the last time you were told not to say something. It feels like a punch in the gut:

Don’t say that word.

You shouldn’t say that.

Many of us have been there, in conversation with one person or maybe in a group. Perhaps you know the person well, perhaps not. But either way, hearing those words has a way of sitting bitterly in the mind. It is the sort of thing you remember.

When we tell others that they shouldn’t communicate, it is a way of telling them that their ideas have no worth. And that simply is not true. Every individual on this planet has ideas, thoughts, and experiences that are worth sharing, however eloquently or crudely they may communicate them.

Stripping the power of language from another human being is an act of abuse. It has a way of demeaning a person and making them feel less than human, while revealing – to those paying attention – just how small the person doing the silencing really is.

It’s like the old advice about bullies: they are mean to others because they are broken inside. The policing of language is a way of projecting one’s own emotional shortcomings onto another human being. If you ever have the urge to tell somebody not to use a particular word or phrase, don’t do it. Instead, reflect on that broken piece within yourself that would make you want to be a bully.

Then work to change it.

If somebody tries to silence your words, don’t let them. Say it again, but louder. Speak up. Speak out. And let them hear your ideas.

 

Everyone should be heard.


Note: I do not condone language that is intended to cause harm to others. To use language in this way is an abuse, not only to the target of the harmful words, but of language itself. Sometimes people use harmful language ignorantly, with no intent to cause harm. In these cases, education about how their words hurt others can put a salve on their linguistic blunder.