Sherry Turkle is spot on about the art of conversation in her January 2014 article “Saving the Lost Art of Conversation” in The Atlantic. Smart tech has us speaking AT each other rather than WITH each other. We need more in-person conversation. Our psyche craves the human connection unique to speaking face to face.

Our psyche needs something else, too.  We need to shift toward using neutral language. Stinging words are so much a part of cultural norms that we’ve become desensitized to using them–but not to how they make us feel.

“Stick and stones” is a fallacy. Judgmental words stick in our craw and influence our psyche. Have you ever noticed that you remember the mean things people say better than the compliments? And, the psyche associates judgmental words with the speaker. Have you ever had a sick feeling when “snide, dismissive Sam or Sally” walks into a room? That’s your psyche reminding you of a judgmental tongue.

How do you shift from judgmental to neutral words? Make a list of 10 words that you dislike.  Next to each word, write a more neutral word.

For example “yup-yes.”  For the next week, every time you use a list word stop and self-correct. If you say “yup,” stop and say “what I meant to say is yes.”  Your listener will feel more respected and so will you. Add 10 more words in week 2. Shifting breeds a respectful communication and reduces conflict. Need I say more?

Try it, you’ll see–or at least make eye contact!

Word Choice Matters

According to, “yup” is a generic term of agreement issued often by a non-listening party, typically used while performing an additional important task. A “yup” most likely excludes eye contact and implies disrespect on its face, no pun intended. It’s rude because it says you are not important enough for me to shift my eyes and look into yours. “Yup” tops my list of judgmental words.

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