• H. Rick Goff

My Words Matter



I recently did a promo for an event I was hosting. The television interview went well as a colleague and I successfully communicated the when, why, and where details for the event. We were celebrating our success when I got an email from someone who had viewed the program. I did not recognize the name and assumed it was someone telling me how great we did during the interview and how excited they were about the event. I was still high on the success of the show when I read the email and its contents didn't immediately register. But after a few seconds, the full effect of the email shut down all my adrenal glands and my high was replaced with profound sadness and regret. I had inadvertently used a phrase during the interview that was offensive to someone. I felt absolutely terrible!

I don't want to give a pseudo prophet and cult leader much time and space in my work or my mind for that matter. But in Nov of 1978 Jim Jones directed over 900 members of a cult called the Peoples Temple to drink a grape drink laced with cyanide. This mass murder- suicide is called the Jonestown Massacre and is considered one of the most harrowing tragedies in American history (google it if you are so inclined). From this tragic event, the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid" was derived (the drink used was actually Flavor Aid). I was a college student when this horrific event occurred, and I am fully aware of the origins of the phrase. And I am embarrassed to say I have used this phrase all my professional life as a metaphor for blind followership and totally buying into something.

After the fact, I thought of a million phrases and words I could have used during the interview. "I strongly believe in what we are doing", "I am totally committed to the goals and purposes of the event" or simply "I'm all in" came to mind. But I chose a phrase that while normalized and part of my lexicon, originated from a tragic circumstance. I humbly apologized to the person who sent me the email and promised to do and be better in the future. I am a life-long learner, and I learned or I should say I was reminded of a valuable lesson---my words matter!!

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