Are you one of the approximately 5% of people who, when you ask the question, “How are you?” want to hear the real answer? There is only a handful out there for each of us who really want to hear the truth. For most people, “How are you?” has become merely a greeting to follow “Hello,” and all that is expected or wanted in reply is “I’m fine.” We get uncomfortable with further details. It is part of the inevitable evolution of our language.
I am fascinated by language development and we have a huge and controversial example happening right now in America. Think about how differently these two labels for the same issue make you feel.
Gun Control – now this one makes me feel like someone is trying to control me or tell me what I can or cannot do.
Gun Safety – this one reminds me of all the lessons my FBI father taught me so I wouldn’t hurt myself or anyone else with a gun. Yes, I had a toy pistol and holster but I wasn’t allowed to point it at anyone, even though it was a toy.
Both expressions are currently being used to try and get gun violence – not hunting or sport – lowered in America. None of us want to see children gunned down in a school or in a drive by, NONE OF US. The reality, however, is gun violence happens every day. The reality is that at this point we have no control over mental illness or those patients getting a hold of guns. The reality is more people are victimized or killed by guns stolen from private homes than are protected by their own guns in a home invasion.
So what is the answer? I don’t know. Can we change our culture? I don’t know, but it will only happen slowly and with lots of careful listening and dialog if it does. If people listen to what is really being said without reacting to what they think they hear – evoked by the language – we have a chance to accomplish what the goal for everyone is, a safe place for our children to be children.