Randy Lennon (mug shot)

Kelowna author wants to clean up our use of language

Randy Lennon illustrates seven new ‘dirty words’ to stop saying

“Words have a magical power. They can either bring the greatest happiness or the deepest despair.”

—Sigmund Freud

People commonly sabotage themselves with their own words.

So a Kelowna author has written a new book, called The Dirty Words: Change Your Language, Change Your Life, to help us “clean up our language.”

Randy Lennon says there are simple, commonly used words that create ambiguity, undermine and generally disempower ourselves.

“Most people, including educators, have no awareness whatsoever of their damaging effects,” said Lennon. “Learning about their impact and inappropriate use can literally change lives.”

While the use and abuse of curse words tend to draw the most attention, Lennon identifies seven words in his book that can be equally damaging – words such as but, try, can’t, wish, hope.

The idea for a book grew out of workshops that Lennon has conducted for years that enable people to find a more positive outlook on their lives, which in part comes from their vocabulary.

Lennon’s relationship with language stems back to getting involved in the newspaper businesses early in his 20s, and an entrepreneurial media-related career since including a stint as a special advisor to former national Conservative Party leader Preston Manning.

For example, he cites how the word ‘but’ can be replaced by the word ‘and’ in every instance.

If a parent says to their child, ‘I love you but I’m not happy with your behaviour,’ and chooses instead to say, ‘I love you and I’m really angry you right now,’ the message will be received much differently.

Lennon says language research has shown a child will discount whatever is said before the word ‘but.’

“It is a little tiny change in language but can make a big difference,” he said.

He offers another example of a father driving his son to hockey practise when his cell phone rings and he answers on Bluetooth. It is a buddy who asks if he wants to join him and other friends at a pub for a beer.

“The father responds I wish I could but I have to take my kid to hockey. You are actually lying because you don’t necessarily have to take the kid to hockey, you actually like taking the kid to hockey, but you use that as an excuse to let your friend down easy.

“You are not being honest. The better response would be, ‘Hey, that sounds great. Thanks for the offer but I’ll take a raincheck. I can’t come because I get to take my kid to hockey.’ That is a more positive response when you use the word ‘get’ instead of ‘have.’

“And, remember your kid is sitting in the backseat listening to all this as well. That will definitely sound better for him or her.”

He said his verbiage philosophy is nothing new, but poor use of words sends out signals to others and yourself about how honest you are being.

“To say I hope I can make your party is a nice way of letting someone down, because you pretty much know when you hear that, that person is not coming to your party.”

Lennon said changes in language can have tremendous positive and surprising impacts.

“By positioning seemingly innocuous words like ‘try, but, should, can’t, have to, hope, wish” alongside the seven curse words you can’t say on television, the purpose of the book is to empower the reader to change their language to change their life.”

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