Why language matters

Jordan Edwards, Communication Officer for Fulfilling Lives LSL

If we’re trying to reduce stigma towards people we support, then we must be mindful of the power of language. After all – it’s the way we communicate.

At Fulfilling Lives LSL we believe that people we support should lead on the language we use to describe their experience. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone will always agree. ‘Multiple-complex needs or Multiple Disadvantage?’. ‘Experiences or challenges?’. ‘People we support’ or ‘Service Users?’. And what about the language we use to describe ourselves, are we ‘Frontline workers’ or ‘Practitioners’?

These differences may seem subtle but if we listen to other people’s perspectives and create a space for an open discussion, we will start to understand the impact of language. Words can make people feel judged and worthless, but also respected and empowered. And we shouldn’t be afraid to ask and listen to awkward questions -, ‘why are we using this word instead of the other?’ and ‘how does this word make me, or someone else, feel’?

Questioning our language can help us avoid labels, provide insight and understanding and ensure words are not being forced upon someone to describe their own experience. However, paying attention to language and being mindful of the vocabulary we use, will not end stigma alone. The mindsets and behaviours of people also need to change, but language is a good place to start.

Learn more

If you would like to explore how the words, phrases and labels used across the sector can shape experience either positively or negatively, please join our free online webinar on Thursday September 23rd at 10am.