Language Pollution

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

6 September 2018

I recently read a quote that reminded me of a time in my life at which someone else’s language defined who I was. Her words were enough to poison the minds of others and negate my accomplishments. At first, the quote had a much broader meaning for me, as I’m sure you’ll see. But as I got to thinking of specific instances in which the truth of the quote could be evident, one story kept sticking out. I’m positive I’m not alone in my experience. So, I want to share both with you, the quote and the story.

The Quote

Most of us – almost all – must take in and give out language as we do breath, and we had better consider the seriousness of language pollution as second to only air pollution. (John Simon)

The Story

I was working for an insurance company for the first time. I was eager to learn, delighted to decorate my first cubicle, and pleased to make a salary that forced me to chose between Ramen Noodles or living in my childhood bedroom at my parent’s house.

Fast forward a few months, and my career was about to take off. A partner in the firm knew I’d be graduating from college with a Finance Degree soon, heard about my work ethic, and offered me a promotion. A woman on his team decided she wasn’t going to work with me and made the next few weeks of my life a living hell. She knew the rules. This wasn’t her first rodeo. She only spoke poorly about me to the people she knew would do her bidding, and she never put anything in writing. Before I knew it, she won. Her shenanigans had worked.

My promotion was revoked, and I was sitting in the HR department signing documentation that assured them I wouldn’t sue if they gave me a new job (and a few extra weeks of vacation).

The Lesson

Sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you’ll lose. But if you’re being pushed out of a place you’ve never been in before and aren’t sure you want to be, you may want to try another place. Whether it’s wide-spread language pollution or character-language pollution, it still can have a serious, hurtful repercussions. When we use our words, we must use them carefully.

Come to think of it, maybe she did just that.