Language is important, and the words we choose shape the contribution we make to a conversation. They are for most of us such a foundational part of our connection with others that we take them for granted for most of the time. Words are powerful whether or not we think about them before we use them, and I am sure you can bring to mind times when you have heard or received words that hurt and times when words can engage us. The hymn writer and poet George Herbert said wisely: "Good words are worth much, and cost little," so taking time to ask which of our words work for good is time well spent.
Within CCiC, we talk about the culture of the space we create and how important it is to be intentional and deliberate in the way we behave with each other. This includes how we ask questions of each other, and how we use words that engage rather than words that shut down. The conversation space we create seeks to be curious and open to understanding where others are coming from and the word we now realise we use regularly is: “challenge”.
“It is good to be challenged in our thinking”
“We need to challenge where that view came from!”
“Surely we can challenge why that is the case?”
The list could go on and the word is in everyday usage without much thought.
And yet, it is a word laden with history and meaning. The origins of the word are from French where it meant to complain, protest; haggle, quibble and it later developed into being used to accuse or call to account, and eventually in the 14th century it came to mean to call to a fight! Not really what we are aiming for in CCiC, but does that really matter? The American author Zig Zaglar said:
“There is power in words. What you say is what you get.”
So, we ask ourselves, how can we express ourselves differently if we are trying to be deliberate in how we shape the space between us? The word we arrive at is: “invitation”.
“Can I invite you to share with me how you arrived at that opinion?”
“May we invite other perspectives on what was just shared?”
“how would you invite others to understand what you said?”
The word invitation has its origins from two roots, the first being Latin that meant “invite, entreat, entertain”, and “be pleasant towards”, and the second part has a root word that meant “to pursue with vigour”. This is an altogether different place for us to inhabit together! It is a place of encouragement and openness rather than a place of hostile questioning. And finally, before you say that this is just playing around with everyday words, take a moment and ask how these two questions land with you emotionally:
“Can I challenge what you just said please?”
“Can I invite you to help me understand what you just said please?”
I leave you to draw your own conclusions, but we are learning that by shaping our questions and our words with curiosity and grace, we open up the potential for new and creative safe spaces between us in our conversation.
What do you think?