Avoid Extreme Language

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Photo by Mark Rasmuson on Unsplash

What’s wrong with the following statements?

“Today is the worst day of my life”

“Marcus is my best friend”

“You never listen to me”

“I’m always right”

“I love taking the subway”

“I hate Harry Potter”

Each one of these statements uses extreme language.

Things are either the best or the worst. We either love or hate people. I either always do something or never do something.

Is there any between? Is it possible to see the good and the bad in every situation faced and every person encountered? Is it possible I sometimes do what you ask? Why is it “always” or “never”?

The world appears to be black and white. In reality, we live in a world filled with gray areas. If the world is filled with gray areas, then our language should match that reality.

There are three common scenarios in which we use extreme language. Let’s break down each one:

Best/Worse

“Marcus is my best friend”

“Today is the worst day of my life”

Is Marcus really your best friend? If Marcus is your best friend, where does that leave your friends from previous stages of your life?

And is today actually the worst day of your life? Perhaps it is, but there’s also a chance you’ve been through far worse.

If you were to ask yourself these questions, you might think twice about your proclamations.

Humans are myopic creatures. We exaggerate what’s in the present moment as being far greater or worse than previous experiences.

Love/Hate

“I hate Harry Potter”

“I love taking the subway”

As they say, “hate is a strong word.” To say you hate something is an extreme statement. Do you actually hate Harry Potter? Or are you simply not much into the fantasy genre?

It’s naive to believe the word “hate” should be removed entirely. But it should be limited to times when we truly despise something and not to be used liberally.

Alright, enough about hate, let’s talk about love. Do I really love the subway? I’ll admit I like it a lot, but to say I love the subway seems a bit much.

What do you think my imaginary girlfriend would think if I told her I loved her and then used “love” to explain my feelings towards the subway?

Love and hate are not to be eliminated from your vocabulary. Both are powerful words that are appropriate when the time is right. Therefore pick your spots to say you love or hate something.

Always/Never

“You never listen to me”

“I’m always right”

“Never” implies you fail to do something 100% of the time. Imagine a parent proclaims you never listen to what he/she asks. If you truly failed to follow through on what your parent demands 100% of the time, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be where you are today (unless your parents are utter morons).

And how about those who say they’re “always right.” Are there people who are right about everything 100% of the time? If so, jokes on me.

It’s safe to assume nobody has all the answers. To say you’re always right is opening a can of worms. And I don’t like worms.

A Simple Solution

Let’s rework the opening statements. See below:

“Today is the worst day of my life” → “Today has been a hard day”

“I hate Harry Potter” → “I’m not much of a Harry Potter fan”

“You never listen to me.” → “You hardly do what I ask”

“Marcus is my best friend.” → “Marcus is one of my best friends”

“I love taking the subway.” → “I thoroughlly enjoy taking the subway”

“I’m always right” → “I’m right about a lot of things”

What seems like a subtle difference — rephrasing a few words — can make all the difference.

If you’re looking to prove a point, you’re more likely to get others on board with moderate language. Problems and polarization arise when we resort to extreme language.

Extreme Language = Polarization

The last thing we need is more polarization. We can barely agree on anything these days.

Words are powerful. Therefore use them wisely.



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