Linguistic Viruses

I’ve been reading You Are What You Say by Budd and Rothstein. Budd is a physician and has a program that helps people look at how they use language and the affects health and well-being.

I really like his list of the 10 Linguistic Viruses which can wreak havoc at work and at home. Here are the first five.

1. Not Making Requests

People don’t make requests of other people because they’re afraid the other person will say “No,” or because they believe a request is an imposition.

But a “No” is about the specific request, not a rejection of the requester. Assuming a request is an imposition also assumes that the other person doesn’t have the gumption to say “No” if it is.

You’re much more likely to get what you want if you ask.

2. Living with Uncommunicated Expectations

Oooooh. I really hate this virus. This one shows up when we have expectations about what other people “should” know or do without us having to tell them.

As in: “I shouldn’t have to ask him for help. He should just see that I’m working on this and offer.” Grrrr.

3. Making Unclear Requests

If you’re going to request something, be clear on what it is.

A friend of mine asked her mother-in-law for help planning a Christmas party. Mom-in-law whipped the whole thing into shape in a day – sent out the invitations, planned the menu, arranged for the catering, etc. My friend didn’t specify what sort of help she wanted and then got mad at her mother-in-law for “taking over.”

Give sufficient detail so that the other person knows what you want.

4. Not Observing the Mood of Requesting

Effective requests are respectful of your dignity and the other persons dignity. A request is not a demand, nor a sniveling, pitiful appeal.

5. Promising Even When You Aren’t Clear What Was Requested

Well, this is a bit of a problem in the software world, wouldn’t you say?

Some people don’t want to ask for clarification because they’re afraid they’ll look stupid. But not asking for clarification actually increases the chance of looking stupid.

Ok, that’s enough for today. I’ll write about the rest of Budd’s Linguistic Viruses later in the week.