a hardcore vegan friend said that she thinks “I killed it” in a webinar I gave.
ofc I’m overanalysing but can’t help but find it funny.
English as a macho language of violence and domination
Reminds me of something Ocean Vuong observed.
“Knock ’em dead, big guy. Go in there / guns blazing, buddy. You crushed / at the show. No, it was a blowout. No, / a massacre…” It goes on. Each line is a slap in the face, a stinging reminder of the violence that hovers and infects even the common space of our everyday conversations.
English is not my friend’s first language even though she’s fluent in it. I assume she picked up this expression from Western media, just like I did. It’s just your swaggy American colloquialism where even native English speakers regurgitate without putting much thought about what the words mean or imply.
We don’t usually interrogate language this closely. Even just last week I still find words in my native tongue of Indonesian that made me think, “huh, so that’s where this word come from, that made sense, why didn’t I realise it before?”.
But these characteristics are more noticeable to people who learned English as their second language pre-YouTube as we need to get acquainted with different expressions and vocabularies by reading and probably running it first through the rote logic layer, and less by absorbing them through immersive practice and exposure. Language acquisition is fascinating tbh.
Anyway, I don’t have any informed opinion or findings about the psychological effect of using “violent” language. Just thought it’s interesting.
Emotional vocabulary. Access with the right keyword.
Lately I’ve been familiarising myself with something called the emotion wheel. It’s a grouped set of words to describe different positive and negative emotions. I am using it to train myself to be more self aware of what is it that I’m feeling. So instead of “I feel like crap” I can be more precise and say “I feel powerless”. Right now I still need to scan the words one by one and ask “is this what I’m feeling? nope. is this? not really. is this?” but hoping that the more I looked at it the easier the descriptor will come to me.
If you were anything like me, you tend to live in your head, pretty exclusively. Your rational muscles are better trained than your emotional or physical muscles. You are sort of disconnected from your feelings and the subtle sensations your body are giving you. We disown, suppress, ignore, reject them — if you are even aware of it at all. You don’t feel good but you can’t describe it.
This is why I’d like to get more in touch with my emotions instead of always letting my rational mind override and obscure emotional and physical signals that might be useful.
I also want to spend less time in the head and be more embodied — “be” in my body. Some people are more in tune with their bodies. They can feel different positive and negative emotions and sense how each manifest in their bodies. But for now, I need words to access the emotion and work with it consciously — recognising, labeling, feeling, and reframing.
I thought I am a master reframer. Apparently I’m just very good at creating coping mechanisms on an intellectual level without ever diving in the underlying emotional blockages to establish a healthier and less mentally-effortful behavior patterns, lol.
Power and limitation of language
Isn’t language interesting? It’s a tool, a way to make sense of your world. Words shape your thinking, influence your world view, and determines the limit of your world. They help you affirms your experiences, express yourself, and connect with others.
At the same time, language is also merely a small slice of our human intelligence. There is only so much words can do. But it’s a good velcro to start navigating and go beyond parts of our humanity that can’t be verbalised.
To understand intelligence and consciousness, language is necessary but insufficient.
Encore: How does your boss talk? Organizational metaphors
"The organization is like a well-oiled machine."
"We need to fine-tune our processes to improve efficiency."
"Our employees are cogs in the company's machinery."
"The company is constantly evolving and adapting to its environment."
"Our team is the heart of the organization."
"We need to nurture the growth of our employees and the company as a whole."
"We need to analyze and process data to make informed decisions."
"Our employees are the neurons that transmit information and make connections."
"We need to reinforce our company values and beliefs to maintain a healthy culture."
"We have different departments competing for power and resources."
"We need to build coalitions and form alliances to achieve our goals."
"We need to break free from the constraints of our current way of doing things."
"Our employees feel trapped and unable to express their full potential."
"We need to embrace change and transform our organization to stay competitive."
"Our employees are adaptable and flexible, able to adjust to new circumstances and challenges."
"The company will maintains order and control over employees."
I found this great article outlining eight common metaphors often used to describe organizations: machines, organisms, brains, cultural systems, political systems, psychic prisons, instruments of domination, and flux and transformation.
The article did a great job describing each of them in more detail, suggests when each metaphor work, when it can fail, and what it means for leadership. I highly recommend reading it if you’re in leadership position or want to influence the culture. I find the seven steps the author recommended us to try out at the end of the article very useful to reflect and make sense of the different dynamics in our lives.
OK, wait what. What the heck am I talking about?
Basically: how do you see the company is run? What does the culture feel like? Do you feel your company treats you & your team as machines, as warriors who get deployed to battle to dominate or be dominated (“we own you”), as a complex organism, as a cybernetic brain, a culture-driven instrument, or political pawn, etc.
Metaphors influence organizational culture and narratives because the metaphor is a way of seeing.
The way we talk and use language shows the way we see the world. The language you use matter.
Fun experiment: pay attention to the way 1) you, 2) your social circle, and 3) the organisation you are part of talk. How do you/they describe different moments, activities, events, and accomplishments. What metaphors do you / they use?
Note: The article is summary of a book titled “Images of Organization”. I only skimmed the book and it is pretty dry so save yourself some time and just read the article — unless you’re into hard core management theory and organisational psychology.