The Simple Words That Save Lives

For this month’s blog post I read The Simple Words That Save Lives.

The article begins around a distressing 911 call, in which the caller’s mother is in crisis and cannot breathe. Unfortunately, the 911 operator and the caller are unable to effectively communicate which results in both feeling frustrated and the dispatcher hanging up on the caller. The woman was later pronounced dead.

After national news coverage, the dispatcher was fired and this sparked the conversation of how to best avoid miscommunications from the experiences of “expert talkers”. Something as small as using the word “speak” instead of the word “talk” when a detective wants to communicate with a suspect changes the way the conversation would go. People in crisis are not susceptible to the word talk because it’s not considered a meaningful word. I would have not thought that such a small and otherwise insignificant change would have such an impact.

Another example of this is when researchers were able to test the effectiveness of the prefix “any-” and “some-” by having a doctor ask “Is there _-thing else you want to address in the visit today?”. It was found that 53% of patients addressed other ailments when asked any-, and 90% raised other ailments when the prefix some- was used. This is because “any” has a closing-down function while “some” is more inviting and open-ended.

I found this article deeply interesting because these changes are not something that an average person is consciously thinking about when choosing which words to use. The article places significance on the importance and weight of words by showing how a message can be misconstrued or altered due to one simple modification. This information makes me want to become more aware of my own choice of words to be a more effective communicator and receive my desired outcome.

One thought on “The Simple Words That Save Lives

  1. I have always had a keen interest for how words are being used and the negative or positive connotations that are attached to words.
    The old saying “sticks and stones can break my bones but words cannot” has been proven time and time again that it is untrue. The articles that you discussed clearly debunks that belief!

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