Why Worry About Being Politically Correct?
The words “politically correct” pop up frequently these days. Many people say the term was created by political conservatives. So is it a term that only applies to political campaigns? No it’s a concept that has broader applications. It’s really a state of awareness; walking a fine line between saying what you believe and saying what others want to hear. The difficulty arises in not going too far so that your true message is watered down to the point you no longer stand up for what you believe in.
What does it really mean to be politically correct? Is it about saying the right things at the right time? Is it about always being diplomatic depending on the immediate audience you are engaging? Or is it about choosing your words wisely? Maybe the litmus test for being politically correct is whether or not your words are “cringe worthy” or not; but cringe worthy by who’s standard. In reality whenever we speak we probably are offending someone. It’s just the nature of the beast. So then how do we maintain political correctness? Maybe it’s about being aware when we speak, especially when we decide to head into uncharted territory, discussing an unfamiliar topic with an unfamiliar audience. Why even worry about being politically correct. Staying politically correct is about:
1. Always choosing your words wisely. Before speaking take a moment to think about the words you use. For example, using masculine pronouns while speaking to a women’s group could be a big turn off to the group.
2. Doing your homework on your audience. Know who your audience is and where their perspective is coming from; know what their likes and dislikes are; what topics they want to discuss; and what topics they want to avoid.
3. Using fewer words is better than using more. If you are unsure of the words to use. Use fewer words. Avoid using words with multiple meaning. Simple language is the best when first interacting with a group.
4. Not letting concerns about political correctness water down your message. You still need to get your message across. People respect a person who lets them know where they stand, whether they agree with that person’s message or not. People can see through people that use political correctness as a shield.
5. Not being self centric. Try to look at things from a 365 degree view to assess how others might view your ideas or words. Only when people understand how their views might differ with others can they understand how to interact with others and begin to find common ground.
6. Striving to avoid words that will offend your audience. Choose generic words when possible. People aren’t always going to let you know that your words have offended them. But the divide between you and them created by those words may be difficult if not impossible to bridge. Always be prepared to clarify what you’ve said to avoid misunderstandings.
7. Relying on your instincts. Interacting with people is a constantly changing event. Let your instincts lead you in the right direction. If something doesn’t feel right, take a moment to change course. You don’t need to change your viewpoints or message, but you can present yourself to others how you would want to have them interact with you.
Being politically correct is all about awareness; thinking before you speak; and still staying true to delivering the message you want to deliver. Yes it involves walking a narrow line sometimes, but well positioned steps keep you from being politically awkward.