Have you ever felt a label forced upon you either directly or indirectly? Possibly someone called you “Blond” and without thinking, the speaker may have attributed a certain characteristic to you. Each person in this world has qualities that make them who they are. Each of these characteristics are fantastic simply because they define us… and yes, that is a good thing! I see a child who was born with a cleft lip who had numerous surgeries throughout his or her childhood to repair this, and is left with scars from these experiences. This child is the definition of beauty. Individuality is what defines us, what makes us human. We are all unique, we are all beautiful, we are all people.
Here is a little concept that we use in the Social Work field to help people feel that they are equal and deserving; it is called the “People First” concept. When speaking about a person and describing them, put the work, “Person” before any descriptive word. This is what happens:
“That disabled man” becomes “That man with a disability.”
“That black woman” becomes “That woman who is African-American.”
“That mentally handicapped man” becomes “That person who is mentally handicapped.”
“That blond girl” becomes “That girl with blond hair.”
The latter sound much more pleasant, wouldn’t you agree?
By forcing ourselves to put people first, we are A.) making people feel equal and B.) Forcing ourselves to use a euphemism, or a politically correct term. We also begin thinking about the words we use to describe people.
As this week’s Two Hands Tuesday mission, try the “People First” concept when you are describing someone, see how it makes you feel.