Lazy Language is De-izing Our Profession

De-izes…. The first time I heard this combination of sounds was with the word “dehumanizes.”  Lazy language dehumanizes patients.  One example that I recall was Room 220, Bed 2. A few other examples include “the knee patient,” “the stroke patient,” “the gunshot wound.” Over time, the lazy language that dehumanized patients was replaced with words that put the patient first. As clinicians changed their language, patients became people who had lives. This easily leads to the ability to care, empathize and create a relationship.

We have a new de-izes. The diversity of our profession is a strength while also being a weakness. After a couple of experiences several weekends ago, it dawned on me that humans have a desire to belong. Before I hit the mountain biking trail, an older gentleman had a gleam in his eye as he told me I’d love the trail if I enjoyed mountain biking. Because I was out there on the trail, I immediately belonged to a select group that loved mountain biking. Later that evening at dinner, I met a 75 year old hockey player who was the oldest player in the tournament that weekend. There he was at a long table full of men who were 60+ years of age that all had one thing in common: playing ice hockey. I think of a couple of my friends with Harleys. It’s like they are in an elite group who have their special hand signals and nods. A few years back, while mountain biking on Drummond Island, a crew was in the area shooting Jeep commercials. My nephew, who owned a Jeep at the time, immediately struck up a conversation with the crew working on the Jeeps prior to the shoot. The reason that my nephew struck up the conversation was due to him owning a Jeep and feeling immediately connected and belonging to a group that loves the Jeep brand.

Let’s get back to our profession. We’ve taken the diversity of our profession that should be a strength and we’ve made it our weakness. We’ve de-ized our profession. De-physical therapist-ized. Our pride and our desire to belong has de-ized our profession because of our choice to use lazy language. Lazy language is our primary mode of communication when we individually define ourselves professionally. When speaking about ourselves to others, we often immediately jump to our specialties, examples like: “I’m a pelvic health therapist.” “I’m a manual therapist.” Our pride in our achievements and our desire to belong to special groups within the profession has led to de-izing.

Maybe it is time to eliminate the lazy language. It’s time to stop de-izing ourselves professionally. Let me be the first to start. “Hi… my name is Selena. I’m a physical therapist who specializes in treating older adults who have balance problems.”

Until next time,

~selena

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