Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Choosing our Words Wisely

Choosing our Words Wisely

During the holiday season it’s a good time to reconsider the words we use when we discuss or introduce our extended families. The wrong words chosen can be hurtful to others and so we must consider the 4-way test of things we say, think, or do:

1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build good will and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

For instance, when introducing one’s step-children, one might say “This is my son and this is my step son.”

Is it true? Yes, one child is biological one is not.
Is it fair to point this out? Perhaps it is fair, but it is unnecessary.
Will it build good-will or better friendships? Definitely not for the step-child, and definitely not between the parent and step-child, or between the step-child and his siblings by marriage.
Will it be beneficial to all concerned? Definitely not.

So in accordance with the 4-way test of things we say, think or do, one might consider it best to simply introduce the two children as: “These are my children.” Differentiating which children are biological and which ones are not might be necessary in a court of law or in a medical setting when discussing heredity and family illnesses, but in the general public setting, it is not only unnecessary but hurtful as well.

I have many biological aunts who are married. I always refer to each aunt and her spouse as my “aunt and uncle.” For instance, I would never point out “this is my aunt and this is her husband.” To disassociate myself from her spouse by way of family bloodlines would be pointlessly hurtful. Regardless of how much or little I care for her spouse, her spouse is still part of our family and by pointing out he is only family by marriage does not serves to build good will or better friendships.

However close or distant we may feel about our family that is related by marriage, it is never helpful to point out to strangers specifically how they are related to you. While the differentiation may be truthful, it is never helpful in building better relationships.

And so during this holiday season, it is only sensible to choose our words wisely when introducing family. Let’s try our best to keep the “happy” in our holidays.

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