Hot words and hot phrases create unnecessary conflict

Some words and phrases are so emotionally loaded for most people in a culture that they tend to create emotional conversations and feelings of upset and insult. Some are obvious, like the use of words such as racist, idiot, or other insults and aggressive words and phrases, but others are in common usage, but are less obvious.

For example, consider the word, “whatever”. It’s used often, and it’s almost always irritating. Why is that? Because the user of the phrase is, in effect, saying “I’m not interested in what you have to say”. That’s a hot phrase. And it tends to derail conversation which then tends to focus on that message, rather than the original conversation.

While there are hot phrases and words within each culture, each of us has our own “hot buttons”, that vary with context, and who we are interacting with.

The point is that when we speak (or write), we should be aware of the possibility that the words we may use can offend, even if they do not offend us, and stop using them. Never use hot button phrases or attacks. On the other side, be aware that someone using something that offends you, or pushes your buttons may not be doing so intentionally. Of course, they may be intentionally baiting you, but even in those situations, taking offense, and attacking or defending against such attacks isn’t likely to help you communicate constructively.


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