Words matter

Marina Salandy-Brown -
Marina Salandy-Brown -

EMOTIONAL intelligence is an integral aspect of human existence, it is what makes us human. Anyone who possesses a balanced sense of humanity will always feel the pain of our brother or sister humans regardless of race, creed, social status, political affiliation and/or sexual orientation. All our actions are derived from some concept of a moral compass that is shaped by our upbringing, education and socialisation.

How we express our emotions and react to situations will help to define us ultimately. As professionals and people in public office with oversight of others, we are always reminded of the need to keep our conduct within the ambit of a professional code which sets parameters to ensure that our words and actions are congruent and consistent with building a just and decent society. Failure to adhere to defined and accepted professional principles compromise our efforts, tarnish our professional reputation, and diminish the value of our work.

Unfortunately, many leaders, both nationally and internationally, in their quest for wealth and power have redefined moral and ethical codes of conduct with impunity, to the point where the lines between truth and untruth, fact and lie, decency and indecency have become so blurred that many professionals are being tempted to depart from long established and accepted standards of professional and ethical conduct.

Notwithstanding the number of leaders who engage in such practice or the millions of times a lie or untruth is repeated, repeating said untruth does not make it right. It is reckless, dangerous and unprofessional to verbalise to anyone, or in any environment, comments that can be recorded and/or preserved by third parties for use later, as well as anything that is not backed by fact and can be viewed as judgmental against any race, ethnic group or person affiliated with any of the aforementioned.

This in no way denies someone their right to freedom of expression, but opinion must always be differentiated from fact. We must always be mindful of the detrimental effects of uninformed opinion, especially in the performance of our professional duties. Emotive and hysterical responses to situations must be kept in check at all times, conceding always to logical, rational, fact-based, calm and composed responses commensurate with one’s professional accountability standards.

Far too often we have become victims to the largely unregulated megaphone of social media, sometimes even being swayed in our professional practice by misinformation peddled in social platforms, where there is no distinction between fact and opinion, and where lies, untruths and opinion having been repeated enough and are perceived as fact.

This dangerous behaviour has begun to be revealed in many bias petticoats which compromise our capacity to act judiciously in the execution of our duties. In the process we inadvertently perpetuate insecurities of hate, racism, bigotry and division, rather than promote mechanisms for positive and systemic solutions to the problems confronting communities.

Emotions expressed through kindness, humility, empathy and compassion build respect, trust and tolerance, human qualities that are rapidly diminishing in our society’s moral and social arsenal. Our emotional quotient must expand exponentially given the moral and ethical decay that has enveloped our society. As professionals who have entered into a social contract with society, we have an obligation to do all within our power to lead the way, by example, to restore ethical decency and to arrest the societal degradation that is fast-becoming socially sanctioned as the new normal.

The avalanche of social media has made it easy for us to become immersed in the deluge of misinformation, hate and unethical conduct, tempting many to abandon the old anchors of truth, justice, equity and fairness. Resisting such temptation is fundamental to the restoration of trust, faith and confidence in leaders and our democratic institutions lest we become a free-for-all society where greed, might and power will define our existence – a mode of annihilation that is ominous.

As custodians of the future, the words we utter in public and private, spoken and written, significantly define us. As we discharge our duties, we must be able to stand up to the most robust examination and scrutiny. Professional standards must never be compromised on the altar of expediency or in the pursuit of personal greed and power. Those among us who violate such professional standards must be met with vigorous social sanction and condemnation. Our emotional capital must consistently anchor our moral compass to espouse and defend that which is right, decent and good, and from it we must never depart. Words have consequences, good and bad.


"Words matter"

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