anti-inclusivity words used in community conversations

“…the words of community are living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” (Old Testament)

There are several words which a community wrangler must continually be vigilant in monitoring.  I myself define these words as ’emotive adjectives’ (often parading as adverbs).  In the grammatical sense, these words are usually applied to direct objects, usually technical components or methodology for how to build certain technologies. However they are not agnostic engineering terms intended to improve the mechanics of the system: they are words intended to remove and/or intimidate people out of the conversation.  Often times, these words are semi-swear words, but the tagging of emotion onto the word or sentence is the meta alarm bell you should hear ring in your head.

All in all, these words are intended to be anti-inclusive.  To push people out of the conversation so ones argument can win.

Below I’m attempting to collect such words to help act as a cue for being hyper aware of the situation unfolding in your community.

Boring, bored, etc – by far the most important #alarmBell word as it represents self-imposed anti-inclusive behaviour of the very person saying it.  Wether they mean it or not, they are trying to convince themselves that they do not care and want to exclude themselves and others from the conversation.

Crap, shit, etc – swear words are emotive because they look to illicit a raised response for everyone in the conversation.

Stupid, idiotic, etc – speaks directly to the frustration one can feel when a technological solution is not fitting together as the puzzle once envisioned.

Hate, dislike, grumpy, etc – highly significant if this word is used without easy to understand explanation for why one feels those way.  See ‘I’m OK, you’re not ok’ matrices behavior.

Tired, sick of, etc. – another word which requires serious consideration as it can speak to the emotional psychological health of the person saying it.

Not wanted, reject, remove, kill off, not desirable etc – perhaps the most simple example of anti-inclusivity manifest.

The reason why these natural language words are important to monitor is because of their ability to be anti-inclusive.  As a community manager, anti-inclusive behaviour is the disease you are trying to fight.  Inclusivity is the behavior you are trying to reward.

Please note, the listing of above words is not intended to remove these words from our vocabulary in some kind of Draconian ‘political correctness’.  Rather I would suggest these words when used should be carefully considered as to their root cause.  They are an opportunity to help change your community through the bottom up process of one to one relationship building (as time consuming as it is).

For me, I’m still trying to figure out the best way to understand the “response” for anti inclusive behavior, but kindness and bit of light-hearted comedy can go a long way to support the person who ends up feeling excluded because of the above words. Approaching the person using anti-inclusive word is not something I tend to do.  Reward good behavior, ignore bad behavior is my usual default when not sure of the response.

What other anti-inclusive words do you see appearing on community mailing lists, slacks, irc, twitter, listservs, fb, etc?  Please let me know via @DFFlanders especially if you have example of how you solved the problem.

“Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose quills” (Shakespeare)


~ by dfflanders on June 19, 2016.

One Response to “anti-inclusivity words used in community conversations”

  1. For what it’s worth your paraphrase above is from Hebrews 4:12 which is in the New Testament 😉

    More pertinently, I suspect there’s an interesting tension between maintaining the focus of a community (whether predetermined or communally-decided) and actively including everyone, especially newcomers. It’s very easy for existing members of a community to become clique-ish either through shared experience or simple through the weariness that comes from having to figure out and adjust to how someone will fit in.

    It’s interesting to think of particular words as a community health gauge and given how much more communication is in some form written, this is worth thinking about. For me some of these point more to overall community health with inclusivity being a side effect. Do you think that inclusivity and community health are separable? or does inclusivity stand either as a needed discrete goal or as a proxy for community health?

    thank you for sharing.

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