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P E R S O N 1st >>> P R O B L E M 2cd

person first language

In people-first language (PFL), when you refer to someone, you define them as a person first and add more words to describe them second. The special Olympics is a big supporter of PFL because putting the person second in language gives the subtle signal that the person is defined by their disability (“disabled person” versus “person with a disability” ). People-first language is also an important tool for discord, I like to call this model of conflict management “Person 1st, Problem second.”

 

In conversation, we generally include both person and problem content : Person related content describes internal states of being, such as an individual’s perspectives, feelings, expectations, beliefs, and needs. Problem related content will likely be about external factors that are influencing our internal states, such as facts, figures, behaviors, and circumstances.

 

ISSUE: Sometimes, communicators can get these two types of information mixed up, or even collapse them into a single type of information. When this happens, we try to solve people like they are problems and the results can be terrible.

 

EXAMPLE: A friend is talking about a recent fight with her partner (again). Because you are tired of hearing the same story from her, you say “I can’t understand why you are still with him, why don’t you just leave?” Your friend becomes agitated, curtly saying she has to go, and quickly leaves without another word and you wonder why she brought it up if she didn’t want to hear the truth. No one wins.

 

SOLUTION: As a listener, try ferreting out the (subtler) person-related information. To do this we often need to separate the two kinds of information presented:

 

  1. What part of the communication is person-related information?____________________________________________________________

  2. What part is problem-related information?____________________________________________________________

  3. Which can you best empathize with and why?__________________________________________________________________

 

Try saying “You sound so frustrated, how are you feeling?” And then EMPATHIZE instead of focus on their problems. Once the person feels understood (you will be able to tell because they will feel good in spite of the problem), then turn to the problem-related information. This cuts down on trying to solve the wrong problem or offering solutions for problems people want to solve on their their.

 

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. Do I often try to solve problems as the listener?

  2. Do I often want others to solve my problems when talking?

  3. What sort of things can I say that express empathy?

  4. How might I use person first language to de-escalate conflicts or improve my own communications?

 

In people-first language (PFL), when you refer to someone, you define them as a person first and add more words to describe them second. The special Olympics is a big supporter of PFL because putting the person second in language gives the subtle signal that the person is defined by their disability (“disabled person” versus “person with a disability” ). People-first language is also an important tool for discord, I like to call this model of conflict management “Person 1st, Problem second.”

In conversation, we generally include both person and problem content : Person related content describes internal states of being, such as an individual’s perspectives, feelings, expectations, beliefs, and needs. Problem related content will likely be about external factors that are influencing our internal states, such as facts, figures, behaviors, and circumstances.

ISSUE: Sometimes, communicators can get these two types of information mixed up, or even collapse them into a single type of information. When this happens, we try to solve people like they are problems and the results can be terrible.

EXAMPLE: A friend is talking about a recent fight with her partner (again). Because you are tired of hearing the same story from her, you say “I can’t understand why you are still with him, why don’t you just leave?” Your friend becomes agitated, curtly saying she has to go, and quickly leaves without another word and you wonder why she brought it up if she didn’t want to hear the truth. No one wins.

SOLUTION: As a listener, try ferreting out the (subtler) person-related information. To do this we often need to separate the two kinds of information presented:

  1. What part of the communication is person-related information?____________________________________________________________

  2. What part is problem-related information?____________________________________________________________

  3. Which can you best empathize with and why?__________________________________________________________________

Try saying “You sound so frustrated, how are you feeling?” And then EMPATHIZE instead of focus on their problems. Once the person feels understood (you will be able to tell because they will feel good in spite of the problem), then turn to the problem-related information. This cuts down on trying to solve the wrong problem or offering solutions for problems people want to solve on their their.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. Do I often try to solve problems as the listener?

  2. Do I often want others to solve my problems when talking?

  3. What sort of things can I say that express empathy?

  4. How might I use person first language to de-escalate conflicts or improve my own communications?

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