Susan 馃悵 Rooks, The Grammar Goddess

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Spunky Old Broad Indeed!

Originally published February 2015; recent events helped me decide to post it here now.聽



Did you know that February is "Spunky Old Broads" month? I sure didn鈥檛, but according to Claire LeSage, it is! And when I read her short piece, I laughed. I loved the vision I had of her mother, and all the other women I know that I could also call 鈥渟punky old broads鈥 including Claire and me.

And yet that term 鈥 Spunky Old Broad 鈥 got me thinking. While I'm old enough to see the humor in it, it's still a label.

And labels can be so limiting.

This is something I have been teaching in my Communication Skills workshops for nearly 20 years:聽

Language matters. Labels matter.

How many of us had / have labels for our kids? Not necessarily negative ones, but labels just the same. We might have called one our 鈥渟hy鈥 child, another one our 鈥渂right鈥 child, and even one who was 鈥渕omma鈥檚 little helper.鈥 The labels, which gave us a shorthand way of describing our kids, were not necessarily meant as criticism; many times they were meant as endearments.


The words we use to describe something or someone may become our reality, and they can have consequences, intended or not.

Even positive labels can cause harm. How many 鈥渂right鈥 kids struggled to live up to that label? How many felt they were not good enough, that the prize was always just out of reach, that their perceived abilities should have given them even more success more easily? How many times did they hear something like "well, you should have known better" because we saw them as the "BRIGHT" ones? "No mistakes allowed" would have been the unspoken message.

Negative labels can have even worse consequences; studies have shown that kids routinely seen as dumb, do-nothings, or useless often don鈥檛 even try to succeed because they鈥檙e persuaded from their earliest days that it won鈥檛 matter. They often live "down" to their label.

Even neutral labels like "shy" or "quiet" can become self-fulfilling prophecies. "Shy" kids may understand what isn't being said: you don't need to speak, because you're shy. So they may grow up without finding their voice.

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Obviously, anyone may push against those labels and find their way beyond them. But for many, it becomes central to who they are or how they see themselves.

Bottom line: When we label ourselves or others, we narrow our perception and limit our ability to see the whole person. And what a shame that is. We are all complex human beings who are both good and bad, bright and dumb, nice and naughty.

Three ways to eliminate labeling

1. Look back at your own life. What words did your parents / teachers / friends use to describe you? What was accurate? Not true? What did you take with you into adulthood? What did you discard?

2. When you say or think of someone with a label, hear it. See it. Feel it. Question it. Does it accurately describe the whole person? Isn't she far more than that word or phrase you just used?聽

3. Go beyond the label. Talk with people聽-- deeply -- if you can. What are they really like? If you are social media friends and not face-to-face friends who often talk on the phone, read their blogs. There's so much more to these people than we might easily know.

Yes, I am a Spunky Old Broad -- sometimes. But not always. And that's the point.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If it has helped you in any way, I hope you will share it with your connections, so they may learn as well. And please share your thoughts with us; I am always interested to see what my readers find valuable.聽


My previous posts can be seen here on my website,聽and specific ones are they're easy to find because they're categorized. Just type in a word in the search box on the topic you're looking for and see everything I wrote on it. 聽


Do the associates in your company look and sound as smart as they are?聽They would if they could take one of my Brush Up on Your Skills workshops right where they work. If your company hires outside experts to teach any topic to its associates, please share my posts and website with your Human Resources or Training Manager.聽

Do you belong to an association or other group that is looking for a speaker for one of its meetings? There are a lot of communication-based topics that could be perfect for a light-hearted and interesting presentation.聽


I offer free generic聽Brush Up on Your Skills workbooks聽in a pdf format in American grammar, business writing, and interpersonal skills. They show what I teach in my three-hour corporate classes. Not all the answers for the quizzes are there, but if you read the information carefully, you'll learn a lot!

Want one? Let me know which one, and please send me your e-mail address. I won't use it for anything else. Promise.

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Spunky old broad - that's hilarious! Of course it could be worse. It could be grumpy old broad. lol Perfect post Susan Rooks and we are learning more about online social etiquette everyday. No bullying and no labeling! signed Franci - the spunky ditsy blond
Thanks, Loribeth Pierson!
Honestly, Paul \, I thought you were waaaaaaaaaaay ahead of me! I started December of '14.
Thanks, Paul \! This one was one of my first efforts last year -- in February. But a couple of events recently reminded me of it, so . . . what the heck.

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