Breaking the ‘Word Police’ Myth: How Inclusive Language Builds Stronger Teams 6 | 25

Kim, Jason, and Amy discuss the importance of using inclusive language and the impact of non-inclusive language, often dismissed as being “too sensitive.” The team also unpack the concept of “red words” and offers tips and advice for how to avoid language that shuts down communication.

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Episode at a Glance: The Word Police

Breaking the 'Word Police' Myth: How Inclusive Language Builds Stronger Teams 6 | 25 word police,radical candor podcast,inclusive language,words matter

How often do you think about the words you use at work?

If you’re trying to communicate with someone, why use a word that will make it almost impossible for the person to hear the next 50 words you say? It would be so much more efficient to choose another word.

Admittedly, habits of speech are hard to break. Even when your team knows one another’s red words, people will still say the wrong thing from time to time. Asking for forgiveness in the service of changing a habit is reasonable; insisting that you get to use whatever word you want, no matter what, is not.

Radical Candor Podcast Checklist  


  1. Whenever you misspeak in a way that turns out to be non-inclusive or offensive, own it and apologize sincerely instead of getting defensive. Do so demonstrates humility and openness to learning.
  2. Be an upstander, not a bystander. If you hear someone else using insensitive language, gently point it out, explain why it’s problematic. Suggest alternatives. 
  3. if someone points out your unconscious bias, respond with curiosity rather than dismissing it as over sensitivity. Ask questions, listen to understand other perspectives, and recognize that tiny bit of effort on your part can go a long way in creating mutual understanding and respect.

The TLDR Radical Candor Podcast Transcript

Breaking the 'Word Police' Myth: How Inclusive Language Builds Stronger Teams 6 | 25 word police,radical candor podcast,inclusive language,words matter

[00:00:00] Kim Scott: Hello everybody and welcome to the Radical Candor podcast. I’m Kim Scott. 

[00:00:08] Jason Rosoff: I’m Jason Rosoff. 

[00:00:09] Amy Sandler: I’m Amy Sandler. And many people will brush off concerns about non-inclusive language, that people are being too sensitive and label people who disrupt bias as the word police. But we’re going to be discussing today how using inclusive speech is about much more than avoiding offense. It’s really a matter of fostering an environment of mutual understanding and respect. 

[00:00:33] Kim, you will often share how we have certain words or phrases that can shut down communication by triggering negative reactions and, and you call these red words. And it’s actually really important if we want our messages to be heard, we need to care about their impact, not just our intent. What do you mean by this idea of red words and why is it so important to be willing to learn to avoid each other’s quote, red words? 

[00:00:59] Kim Scott: Well, as we often say, good communication gets measured not at the speaker’s mouth, but at the listener’s ear. And so very often, people will say, if they say something that they didn’t intend to be offensive, but that was offensive, or that bothered someone in some way, they’ll say, oh, I didn’t mean it, you know. And that’s not really the point. Uh, if we pretend like this is about someone stepping on someone’s toe, if you were stepping on someone’s toe, you wouldn’t stand there continuing to, and assert your right to continue to step on their toe, just because you didn’t mean to step on their toe. And to me, that’s kind of what happens.

[00:01:41] Uh, a mentor of mine told me about red words when I was complaining because someone who wanted to work at a startup that I was leading sent us a note that began with the word gentlemen. And, uh, for me, that’s a red word kind of. Like, if somebody doesn’t, just assumes that all of the hiring managers of a company are men and addresses the letter to the team as gentlemen, that, I mean, that’s just irritating to me. And, um, and so I complained about this to my team and they said, oh, you’re being too sensitive, Kim. Uh, and I didn’t think I was. 

[00:02:29] Amy Sandler: Not so gentle after all. 

[00:02:30] Kim Scott: Yes. Uh, and I didn’t think I was being too sensitive. I talked to my mentor about this and he said, you know, one of the things I’ve learned in my career, is that everyone has a red word. And it may be a different red word for different people. But if you don’t learn to avoid those red words, then you’re just not going to communicate with the person very well. 

[00:02:55] Amy Sandler: I’m curious if the origin of my assumption is that the origin of the phrase red word comes from this idea that anger makes us see red or someone stepping on your toe makes it turn red. Um, was that ever a focus on where that came from as a phrase?

[00:03:11] Kim Scott: Yeah, I think it was. It makes you see red. That’s the point. 

[00:03:13] Amy Sandler: Yeah. 

[00:03:14] Kim Scott: And when you’re seeing red, you’re rarely, your executive function is usually sound asleep and your fight or flight, usually fight mode is, uh, is right away, is wide awake. And we rarely are at our best when we’re in, when we’re in that kind of cognitive space.

[00:03:30] So I think it is important. I mean, here’s another example of a red word. I was working with a team on Wall Street and I made the joke that I often make when I was giving my Radical Candor talk that in the first draft of the book, I called the obnoxious aggression quadrant, the asshole quadrant. I thought this was funny and they were really upset that, I could tell they actually were upset.

[00:03:57] And they said, as soon as you say, you know, because they got called assholes, I think, more often than they was, than was, they felt was fair. And they were very, it was a red word for them. And I had to not say that when I was working with that team. 

[00:04:13] Amy Sandler: Yeah, this is getting a little, uh, meta, but I recall when I was going through, uh, The Search Inside Yourself training out of Google around emotional intelligence. And one of the things was about understanding people’s triggers. Um, but then we also learned that the word trigger can be triggering for people. 

[00:04:32] Kim Scott: Triggering, yes.

[00:04:32] Amy Sandler: Right? So there’s certain words that really do kind of set us off and I would broaden it. I think it’s not just, potentially a fight or flight reaction. But also, um, you know, sort of that freeze, but also fawn is a newer trauma response of where people will just turn into more people pleasing behaviors and not bring it up, um, as well. And so I think for all of those words or phrases, the idea is that it’s inhibiting conversation and communication, which is really what we’re trying to do. Jason, where do you come out on all of this? 

[00:05:07] Jason Rosoff: This is not an abstraction. So that like the, this is one of the rare communication things where there’s like a specific, there’s a very clear stimulus and response, right? 

[00:05:18] Amy Sandler: Yeah.

[00:05:18] Jason Rosoff: So often in communication, you’re guessing like, how do I say this? And what should, how should I phrase it? And what’s the way to do this? And this is one of those cases where someone can very clearly tell you, I really had a negative reaction to the way that you said that. 

[00:05:32] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:05:33] Jason Rosoff: It’s like the easiest win in the world to be, oh, that’s like good, that’s really useful information. I’m going to avoid saying it that way in the future so that communication can actually happen. So that you’re not often sort of fight or flight, fawn, freeze, response. You’re present in the discussion. And I think there are people who, the sort of like, the word police moniker gets dropped on people who bring this up. But to me it’s really, it’s like missing the forest for the trees, you know what I’m saying?

[00:06:04] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:06:04] Jason Rosoff: It’s like one of those rare moments in your life where someone gives you a really clear, direction that’s going to help you communicate more effectively with them. And I’m, why would you pass that opportunity up? It makes no sense to me. 

[00:06:16] Kim Scott: And I think it’s part of the reason why this word police thing gets bandied about is that people want these rules, they want and they resist at the same time, these rules to be absolute.

[00:06:28] So for example, I really don’t like it when people refer to me as girl. Uh, to me, it’s like the wrong answer on an SAT man is to woman as boy is to girl. And so I don’t like it. Uh, but I’m not saying that all women don’t like it. Some are fine being referred to as girl and I’m not telling them what they should or shouldn’t like.

[00:06:59] I’m just saying, if you’re talking to me, you’re not talking to all women, you’re talking to me, and this is how I feel about the word. Um, so, I think it’s, I think, because often the you’re too sensitive response is, well, other, you know, other women don’t mind, and I’m like, well, you’re not talking to those other women, you’re talking to me.

[00:07:19] Amy Sandler: You know, when you were giving that example, Kim, around the gentleman in the email, there were two things that made me think. One is that we so often talk about in Radical Candor, having these one on one conversations. And so again, it’s sort of what I am saying and how is it landing for you? The other thing is that it was an email versus to Jason’s point, if you can visibly see if you’ve set someone off and notice their reaction is.

[00:07:44] So I’m curious when you go back to the example of the gentleman in the email, given that it was sort of one to many of which you were excluded from that group. And then you did go and follow up and share how it landed. Um, what would you wish they had said or done differently? Um, just to kind of rewrite that story.

[00:08:05] Kim Scott: Well, so he, this candidate was writing an email to me, who was the co-founder and CEO of the company and my team. Uh, and so one thing you might do if you’re writing someone an email asking for a job interview is look and find out who that person is. Uh, do a little research. Uh, but even if you didn’t have time to do the research, which I totally get, sometimes you’re sending out a bunch of emails.

[00:08:33] Don’t assume, just say team or, you know, uh, this, it was Juice. So Juice team, uh, you know, say the name of the company and say team. Why would you assume, why would you exclude someone on the team who might not be a man. Also, ladies and gentlemen, has a whole other sort of problem that we can go into in more detail.

[00:08:59] Amy Sandler: Uh, well, we’ll put that on the back burner. Um, because I want to talk about Kim in Radical Respect, uh, you wrote about posting some advice on social media, uh, that included the phrase, quote, tell me why I’m crazy when soliciting feedback. 

[00:09:17] Kim Scott: Yes. 

[00:09:17] Amy Sandler: And there were a couple folks who, um, from your perspective really helpfully pointed out how that phrasing perpetuated stigma against mental illness. So can you kind of walk through what happened and how that landed for you and why that was helpful? 

[00:09:31] Kim Scott: Sure. So I was suggesting different ways to solicit feedback. And instead of writing, tell me why I’m wrong, I wrote, tell me why I’m crazy in this Twitter post. And when I did that, several people pointed out that I was not being respectful of people who did have mental illness.

[00:09:55] And I didn’t want to be disrespectful in that way. And I did want to use inclusive language. So I just said, thank you for pointing it out. It was a public exchange and I didn’t view that as public criticism. I viewed that as a correction and that did need to happen, especially since I was broadcasting on Twitter.

[00:10:14] So the correction had to be broadcast back. So several other people who are observing this exchange sort of, leapt to what they thought was my defense and they said, ah, you know, they were being too sensitive. There’s no word that’s safe in the English language, something along that line. And too sensitive or oversensitive thing, like now it’s, bias is often like turtles. It’s bias all the way down. ‘Cause like complicated for a woman to respond to, uh, to, uh, oversensitive. And I was happy to notice that Russ Laraway, uh, who many of you who listen to this podcast know, chimed in to the thread and he said, look, for the you’re too sensitive crowd, let’s do a simple ROI on changing your language. If you change the word you’re using, you include more people. And, like, it’s not that hard to do, why wouldn’t you do it? Uh, and, so I was grateful to him for chiming in on that, and I thought he put it very well. 

[00:11:18] Amy Sandler: Yeah, and in fact, I think we have the, um, actual phrasing of that. Jason, do you want to share with the group, because I think even just exploring this idea of ROI, um, what are the ways we’re thinking about it? So this idea for the, we’ve become too sensitive crowd. Please consider trying to evaluate this with a simple return on investment calculation. Do you want, Jason, you want to kind of walk through that? 

[00:11:41] Jason Rosoff: Oh, sure. So Russ wrote for the, we’ve become too sensitive crowd. Please consider trying to evaluate this with a simple return on investment calculation. What does it cost me to change versus not change? And what do I get if I change versus not change? The investment is adapting my language costs what? Some cognitive difficulty for maybe two weeks. My search for an answer on this topic and many others tells me that it costs effectively nothing.

[00:12:07] Then I ask myself, what do I get in return? If I keep using insensitive aphorisms, especially as a white man, I will create ranging inclusion issues. Big for some, small for some, non existent for others. If I change my language, though, I take a small step forward toward a more universally inclusive environment. I think that the quote, we’ve become too sensitive take simply, uh, implicitly invalidates the perspective of those offended or hurt, and I’m just not sure we should be doing that. 

[00:12:34] Kim Scott: To which I replied, amen. Perhaps not inclusive language, I don’t know. Maybe I should have chosen a different term. 

[00:12:42] Jason Rosoff: Uh, yeah, I think this is especially important to consider when there is some sort of power differential, whether that’s social power or hierarchical power. The onus is on people with power to share that, to create space, to include others. It’s not about giving it up, right? It’s actually about sharing what you’ve got. And, when I think about this, like I said at the top, it’s just sort of, communication is so difficult when people give you easy pointers to follow, like take the gift that you’re being given and follow the easy path. 

[00:13:26] Kim Scott: Yes.

[00:13:26] Jason Rosoff: Like the resistance, I understand why, I can empathize with the resistance because there are certainly situations in which I have felt like, you know, what the, this is an unreasonable request or this person’s asking me something that I don’t really feel like I can easily do. Uh, but if you take a moment to think about it, it really, it’s just really, to ask is actually so trivial, which is just don’t, when you’re talking to me, don’t use that word to describe me or to, you know, to describe the situation. 

[00:13:58] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:13:58] Jason Rosoff: It’s so small. And what I’ve also found is that when you acknowledge that and you make a commitment to change, it doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect either. Like once you’re like, once you’ve,

[00:14:12] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:14:13] Jason Rosoff: Once you’ve made the commitment, the other person can help hold you accountable. And I’ve found that people are pretty willing to give someone grace who is not literally demanding their right to continue standing on their toe. If they accidentally step on it again, they’ll say, hey, can I, I want to remind you that bugs me when you use that word. And then it becomes a partner, you know what I’m saying?

[00:14:37] Then it’s something that you’re doing together. So not only does it help the communication land, but it’s a relationship building moment. Uh, so, anyway, like the, for me, I just, I think Russ got it exactly right. It costs very little. It gets you quite a lot in return, both in the effectiveness of the communication and in the quality of the relationship.

[00:14:58] Amy Sandler: Jason, you said something really interesting, which Kim, I would love to get your perspective on, which was about the resistance. 

[00:15:04] Kim Scott: Mm-hmm. 

[00:15:04] Amy Sandler: And I’m wondering, Kim, especially in folks that you’ve coached or even just in talking about Radical Respect. What has been your experience of like, what is underneath that resistance for people to even explore the possibility of making that change ?

[00:15:20] Kim Scott: It’s a really good question. And I have a theory, but you all can tell me what do you think of my theory. ‘Cause the TLDR is, I don’t really know, but my, here’s the theory. I was having dinner actually with someone the other day. Who’s a well known Silicon Valley executive and, uh, retired now. And he was telling me that he had written some things about management and he included an article, which I also, I like this article, but I think it needs to be renamed, from HBR and I think it was written like in the eighties. And it’s called The Monkey on Your Back. And it’s about how people tend to delegate up. And somebody pointed out to him that using monkey in that way is going to make some people feel excluded in particular, uh, black employees who have been, you know, subjected to various animalization kind of language, uh, way too often. And he really refused to change the language or even take the point. And I told him about the feedback I got on what we now call Whoops a Daisy, but what I used to call Whoops the Monkey that, that the employees on my team who are black, we’re never going to nominate themselves for Whoops the Monkey.

[00:16:47] And so I needed to change it to Whoops a Daisy. And he did, he sort of said, oh, like that’s an interesting way to look at it. But I think the resistance, my sense was the resistance came from this fear of being called racist, and so I think he was afraid that if he conceded the point, he would be, you know, confessing to racism. 

[00:17:13] Jason Rosoff: Hmm.

[00:17:13] Kim Scott: Whereas I would say, if you don’t concede the point, like you’ve gone from unconscious bias to now doing the racist thing. I didn’t say that to him and maybe I should have, maybe I should have pushed harder. Because I was sort of interested, like, why are you resisting this? And we kind of had this conversation where he said his point, I said my point, and then we moved on. And I, now in retrospect, I wish I had double clicked and asked, like, why was it so hard to change the language? 

[00:17:46] Jason Rosoff: Yeah. And I would just say, that it’s so tempting to think of these things as happening in another, like, as from another time. But I happen to just read there’s a town in Connecticut right now that’s having a horrible issue of like racialized animus in school. And the animal noises being used as a way to taunt black students is like happening right now in, in school in liberal Connecticut. 

[00:18:13] Kim Scott: And also actually in liberal California, the same thing happened recently at a school I know of. 

[00:18:19] Jason Rosoff: So I think this is like, if you realize that, I think we can all recognize just how harmful that is, how terrible that behavior is. Like it’s objectively terrible behavior. Why would you perpet like, why would you want to be party to perpetuating that, you know what I’m saying to reanimating that feeling in somebody? 

[00:18:41] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:18:42] Jason Rosoff: Like there’s just no reason to do it. 

[00:18:45] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:18:46] Jason Rosoff: It just doesn’t make, anyway, it’s hard for me to understand.

[00:18:50] Kim Scott: Yeah. I wish I had thought to say that. To say, look, just the other day, there was an incident in a school, you know, a few miles from here where this happened to this black child at this school. And why, you know, if that is what, if that’s the emotion that the monkey on your back brings up for people, that is, you’re not going to be able to communicate with them if that’s the emotion that they’re having when you’re talking about it. 

[00:19:17] Jason Rosoff: Yeah.

[00:19:18] Amy Sandler: I really appreciate the thoughtful reflection and you know, Kim, what’s coming up as you say that of just, if we can be in conversation with people and get curious to really understand like, where is the resistance coming from? And in a way that’s not blaming or calling people out, but really, I think getting curious and to try to understand it.

[00:19:37] And then to your point, addressing the real impact. I will say just from my own experience, um, and I think I’ve shared this story of, you know, soon after, the day after, the 2016 election and I was leading some mindfulness workshops with some CEOs. And I shared with one of the leaders how harmful some of the language was about, you know, this was at the time of, you know, women can be grabbed wherever you want because you’re the leader and about, you know, Mexicans and immigrants.

[00:20:10] And I said, these words are very harmful if you are that person. And the person who had just, you know, was a leader and had just sat through my session said, oh, those are just words. And so I just, I wonder to the ex, extent, you know, Jason, to go back to what you said earlier in the conversation, like it’s sort of, it’s not an abstraction, like there is a real impact. And so I think being really specific and in spelling out the harm, and I think that’s the beauty of what Russ shared, is like, there’s sort of this ROI, and if you can spell out the actual return, whether it’s in harm mitigated or an improved communication can be really helpful. 

[00:20:47] Jason Rosoff: To add to that, I think the, there’s an over focus on the words and not on the impact of the words, to, like, just to really emphasize that point, like, it, what you said is so important.

[00:21:00] The goal in changing, uh, in being aware of, mindful of, the words that we use is not because we want to police speech, but it is to create the positive benefit, the good part of the ROI, the return, which is a respect, a mutually respectful environment in which people feel like they can easily communicate. They can, um, understand and be understood by, by other people, which is the lifeblood of all of the things that are happening inside your company. So if, 

[00:21:33] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:21:34] Jason Rosoff: Go ahead. 

[00:21:35] Kim Scott: Uh, and I think words really matter. I think at least as a child, I was told, you know, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. But words do hurt me actually, that’s not true. It’s something that we, you know, we sort of tell children when we’re telling them to ignore bullying. But I think it’s time to stop ignoring bullying and start paying attention to it.

[00:21:57] And verbal taunts are really painful. In fact, when my twins were very young, there was a time where I realized that one of them, who was more verbal and smaller, would taunt the other larger one until, uh, they hit it, you know, until he hit her. And I’ll reveal the genders. And so I had to actually equate, uh, verbal, and I’m not saying words are violence. Violence and words are two different things.

[00:22:30] But in terms of creating a peaceful household, I had to create consequences for verbal violence as surely as I did for physical violence. And this was not, it didn’t come naturally to me. Like, there was part of me that, that kind of, like, at one point when they were very little, uh, they could barely even speak. And my son was very into excavators and, uh, and diggers. And my daughter didn’t care at all about excavators and diggers. And so she would taunt him by pointing at a digger and saying, eka. And he would say, digger. And she would say, eka. And he would say, digger. He was getting more and more mad and she was just messing with him. And I thought it was funny actually and then I had to learn how to, 

[00:23:22] Jason Rosoff: It’s a little funny in the retelling, I’ll be honest. 

[00:23:24] Kim Scott: It was funny at the time. I mean, I was laughing so hard. I had tears coming down my face, but, um, but I had to realize that for him, it was not funny. Like he was really enraged and I had to teach her. 

[00:23:39] Amy Sandler: Kim, can I, and I’m sorry if I’m like not following along here, but was it the misnaming of the digger? 

[00:23:44] Jason Rosoff: Yes. 

[00:23:44] Kim Scott: Yes.

[00:23:44] Amy Sandler: Like, was that what was really upsetting was calling it something else. 

[00:23:48] Kim Scott: Intentionally.

[00:23:48] Amy Sandler: That was really important and intentionally doing it. And I’m being, you know, a little pedantic here, but I think it’s, you know, just like we become, um, there was almost a sense of his, of your identity being attacked if that, you know, I’m just curious what you think was underneath that, that strong reaction about that.

[00:24:08] Kim Scott: Oh, yeah. I don’t think his identity was tied up in excavators and diggers, but I think he was correcting her. And, you know, it was important, it’s important to be on the same page about the words for things, I think. 

[00:24:21] Jason Rosoff: Mm hmm. 

[00:24:22] Kim Scott: And that she was refusing to acknowledge that she had it wrong. She was calling the thing by its wrong name was intellectually, I think, frustrating and emotionally frustrating. I mean, it just, it enraged him. And she, and I think the point was she knew it did, and that’s why she was doing it, which I think also was frustrating. That’s part of the problem. 

[00:24:43] Jason Rosoff: That’s a, uh, an extreme example of this, but I do think that that’s how it feels to people when someone repeats their red word, even after they’ve told it, it’s infuriating. 

[00:24:56] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:24:57] Jason Rosoff: I mean, it’s invalidating, like it, but it’s infuriating to have someone continue to use language that they know to be harmful to you. And I think the, uh, one thing came up for me, which is, uh, I do think that it’s a really helpful practice for individuals to learn to separate stimulus and response. To learn, to learn skills that help them manage their own emotional response to those, to the words that upset them or triggered them.

[00:25:28] Like, that’s a healthy thing for an adult to do is to realize, hey, I get really upset when this happens. I want to learn to manage that emotional response. That is important. And so I don’t want to invalidate. It’s not that that’s not useful. But it is important that as we’re doing that, as adults, like, I see someone saying, this really bothers me as like asking for help on that journey, right? They can’t always manage that emotional response, it’s very taxing. 

[00:25:58] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:25:58] Jason Rosoff: To constantly be managing your emotional responses and you’re helping another person out, making it so that they don’t have to spend so much energy on that and instead can spend energy on collaborating with you on whatever you’re working on.

[00:26:19] Amy Sandler: So Kim, you shared how words matter and also, you know, Jason, you mentioned about like, we’re not gonna get it right all the time. What really matters is that we’re trying. And so I think, you know, asking for forgiveness if we’re trying to change a habit is reasonable. And Jason, to what you’re just saying, that insisting to use whatever words we want, whenever, you know, is not.

[00:26:40] And so Kim, you know, from your perspective, do you have an example? I mean, you shared about, um, the Whoops a Daisy reframe, but what have you found is helpful? Um, we talked about apologies on a recent podcast, which we can put in the show notes, but specifically on this idea of like, oh, yikes. I just used your, I used the word again sorry. Like, I mean, just kind of naming it as it happens. ‘Cause sometimes it’s those cognitive blips and like it comes out. And as we’re saying it, we realize, oh, I just said girl. And I know that that pisses you off. 

[00:27:13] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:27:13] Amy Sandler: Like, but what works best for you? 

[00:27:15] Kim Scott: I mean, pronouns are a good example. Uh, because Mars, my child goes by all the pronouns really. Uh, and so it’s important for me not to always refer to Mars as she, but to refer to Mars as they, and even sometimes he, like to just shuffle the deck a little bit. And it’s hard for me to remember that. I mean, these are, as, I said, often these, the words that we use and the patterns of speech that we have are deeply ingrained from childhood. 

[00:27:50] Amy Sandler: Mm-hmm.

[00:27:50] Kim Scott: And so having her being willing to remind me, and my husband and I hold each other accountable for getting it right. That’s, uh, that is another example. What, like, why do I want to make adolescence harder than it already is for my child? I do not. And so I think with that spirit, it’s easier to remember, but it does also, and there’s another thing which I have been thinking about lately. I was on a podcast recently and I think I’ve used this term on this podcast, but I can’t remember the origin, but I like to use colorful language and often colorful language has terrible origins and so being aware of that and just asking. So I think the term I used was namby-pamby. And I think we decided it was not a problem or it was a problem? 

[00:28:46] Amy Sandler: It feels like a problem to me. Like that’s just my, it feels like, you know, sort of a heady mix of misogyny and homophobia without doing a quick, like deep dive into Wikipedia. 

[00:28:58] Kim Scott: Yes, yes.

[00:28:59] Amy Sandler: But that’s my quick take. 

[00:29:01] Kim Scott: So as soon as I said that, I was like, I think that, I think I’m going to scratch that, that, uh, that phrase from the record and I’m going to use a different phrase. Uh, just ’cause it’s probably, it sounded off to me. And I was thinking about it later, you know, was that so hard for me to do? No, it was not so hard for me to do. Uh, to just say, you know, that it’s colorful, but it’s probably not worth, it’s probably not worth, you know, it probably does more harm than good. 

[00:29:38] Amy Sandler: We can do a little research on that. And I think again, like to your point about girl, like, you know, this isn’t, um, one size fits all and different phrases are going to land differently for different, people.

[00:29:51] So before we close, Kim, you had mentioned about ladies and gentlemen. So while we’re on that, um, your own reflection on that. I mean, for me, it’s, it’s a sort of, there’s two categories. It might not reflect the full spectrum, but there’s also kind of like this behavioral connotation.

[00:30:11] Kim Scott: Yes. 

[00:30:12] Amy Sandler: In those phrasings. And to me, I hear lady and all of a sudden, um, you know, like, is there a long gown involved or like it just, like, are there, it just feels like, are we now in like 19th century Britain? 

[00:30:26] Kim Scott: Yeah. Prescriptive behavior, uh, that I don’t always want to follow. And then gentlemen, to me, especially when I get a letter in a business context, I think of a gentleman’s club, which is really a strip club. Uh, and so that also is why the term can be like fingers on a chalkboard. But in another context, it wouldn’t bother me actually. It’s not like, it’s not like ladies and gentlemen is exactly,

[00:30:57] Amy Sandler: Of the jury. 

[00:30:58] Kim Scott: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Ladies, gentlemen, and people of the jury. 

[00:31:02] Amy Sandler: Yeah. 

[00:31:02] Kim Scott: I think we’re going to have to get away from that language. Uh, there’s, um, when I was at South by Southwest introducing Radical Respect with Wesley Faulkner, he told a story about the second date he had with his wife, he referred to her as lady. And she really objected to the term because she felt like it was, uh, putting, uh, a certain, it was invoking a certain class of person and also prescribing certain kinds of behavior that she didn’t want to, uh, to be subjected to. And she told him, and thank goodness she told him, because that allowed them to have their third date and to go on and get married and have children. So, uh, it was worth it to him. 

[00:31:50] Jason Rosoff: That’s some good ROI. Can I just say, that’s pretty hard, hard evidence for a positive ROI. 

[00:31:59] Kim Scott: Yes. Exactly. 

[00:32:01] Amy Sandler: All right. Well, on that note, let’s get into our Radical Candor checklist. And these are tips to start putting Radical Candor into practice. Kim, you want to kick us off? 

[00:32:14] Kim Scott: Absolutely. Tip number one. Whenever you misspeak in a way that turns out to be non-inclusive or offensive, own it and apologize sincerely instead of getting defensive. Do so demonstrates humility and openness to learning. And I think own it and apologize, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna double click on that. AAAAAC. You gotta be aware, you’ve gotta accept the consequences, you’ve got to maybe make amends beyond the consequences, you’ve got to make sure that you acknowledge and put the know in your knowledge, know why it was problematic and then apologize.

[00:32:56] Amy Sandler: And if you’re not sure the origins of the AAAAAC, uh, you can check out our podcast on apologies. Tip number two, be an upstander, not a bystander. If you hear someone else using insensitive language, gently point it out, explain why it’s problematic. Suggest alternatives. Kim, one of the things that you recommend in Radical Respect is coming to an agreement as a group on how we want to handle those things, right? Like the purple flag. 

[00:33:25] Kim Scott: Yes.

[00:33:25] Amy Sandler: For example. Um, and I just want to actually get your perspective on the, oh, Kim is waving a purple flag on the video. Kim, because we were just talking about that, you know, it’s measured not at my mouth, but at the other person’s ear, what would be your tip if you’re not sure if that language will land in a doorway for the other person? How would you frame that ability of being an upstander? 

[00:33:51] Kim Scott: I would wave the flag if it seems problematic to me, I would own it. 

[00:33:55] Jason Rosoff: Yeah, I think the upstander thing in this context is kind of interesting because, uh, Kim, as you said, the same word in different contexts might have a different impact.

[00:34:07] I think as an upstander, if you know that a, if you know a word to be problematic or upsetting in a, in some way, it’s useful sharing that information, right? Because the people who responded to you on Twitter, they may not have been actually upset or offended by you using the word crazy in that way. But instead they were saying, I want you to be aware. 

[00:34:28] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:34:28] Jason Rosoff: That when you use it in this way, it has the maybe un, hopefully unintended consequence of stigmatizing mental illness. So you don’t have to be personally, but if you have the knowledge, share it with other people. 

[00:34:38] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:34:38] Jason Rosoff: All right. Tip number three, if someone points out your unconscious bias, respond with curiosity rather than dismissing it as over sensitivity. Ask questions, listen to understand other perspectives, and recognize that tiny bit of effort on your part can go a long way in creating mutual understanding and respect. 

[00:34:57] Amy Sandler: For more tips, visit Show notes, go ahead, check out And of course, praise in public, criticize in private. So if you’re liking what you’re hearing, rate and review us wherever you’re listening to the podcast and we welcome your criticism. Email it 

[00:35:23] Kim, at the start of this podcast, you are waving a very long and luxurious, uh, asparagus spear. Um, would you like to share more about your favorite thing in this moment?

[00:35:34] Kim Scott: I love working in the yard. I love pulling the weeds. I love wandering around, seeing what’s growing. I love the lizards that come up to me when I am weeding. I just, I love seeing this asparagus that was an inch tall yesterday and was like sixteen inches tall today. It’s all very exciting, especially this time of year.

[00:35:58] Jason Rosoff: Spring has sprung. 

[00:35:59] Kim Scott: Spring has sprung. 

[00:36:01] Amy Sandler: On that note, keep springing. 

[00:36:04] Kim Scott: Take care, everybody. 

[00:36:05] Amy Sandler: Bye for now. 

[00:36:07] Audio: A few moments later. 

[00:36:09] Kim Scott: All right. 

[00:36:10] Nick Carissimi: Good job, guys. 

[00:36:11] Kim Scott: You all. 

[00:36:16] Jason Rosoff: I didn’t even notice. You started laughing and I was like, what? I’m being serious. Like I really thought that it was good , so, 

[00:36:21] Amy Sandler: It was really good.

[00:36:24] Nick Carissimi: I’m learning 

[00:36:24] Amy Sandler: Ladies and gentlemen.

[00:36:25] Kim Scott: You should, you, we were still recording. You should end on that. 

[00:36:29] Amy Sandler: Oh my God.

[00:36:33] Nick Carissimi: I’ll, you know what, I will put that in. I will put that in. 

[00:36:36] Kim Scott: All right. All right. Okay. 

[00:36:39] Nick Carissimi: See y’all. 

[00:36:40] Kim Scott: Bye y’all.

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The Radical Candor Podcast is based on the book Radical Candor: Be A Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott.

Radical Candor podcast

Episodes are written and produced by Brandi Neal with script editing by Amy Sandler. The show features Radical Candor co-founders Kim Scott and Jason Rosoff and is hosted by Amy Sandler. Nick Carissimi is our audio engineer.

The Radical Candor Podcast theme music was composed by Cliff Goldmacher. Order his book: The Reason For The Rhymes: Mastering the Seven Essential Skills of Innovation by Learning to Write Songs.

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