Ban toxic productivity by changing the way you speak

I noticed a problem with some of the things I said. When a friend recently texted me to ask if I would like “a quick bite to eat,” I replied, “Sure!” What I didn’t say was, “Actually, I’d prefer to linger as long as we please while enjoying our meals.” When it’s time to pick up some stuff from the store, I don’t say “I’m going to the store” but “I have to get something done quickly.” And I always “hop” or “jump” in the shower (a potentially dangerous act, if I’m being honest with myself).

In a culture where do-do-do feels like the constant, never-ending goal—and our mental and physical health suffers for it – it’s time to ask ourselves how much our own words have to do with it. In fact, language and mental health experts encourage us to slow down and think about what we’re saying. But how do you even begin to change phrases that are so ingrained in your daily life?

A well-intentioned story

Almost all of these idioms date from the 20th century, says the lexicographer and author Corey Stomper, although they really took off from the 1980s. Intriguingly, she found that “hop on the phone” started in the 1920s (used in the business world); In the early 1940s, “have a bite” was used to talk about a meal in the middle of the workday. and “Jump/Hop in the Shower” dates back to the 1970s – “although we had a ‘hop in the tub’ in 1940 and ‘have to run’ was an excuse to get out of a conversation because of the rigors of your day’s call since the 1870s.”

While the phrases aren’t work-related (such as “have a bite” in its current usage), they’re tied to the idea of ​​being pressed for time and not bothering anyone else, Stamper says. “When you say you’ll have a quick bite and then do XYZ again, you’re reassuring anyone who’s listening that eating your lunch is just a temporary break in your day. Move it out of the workplace and it has a casual frankness about it: Asking someone I’m interested in if they’d like “to have a bite” is less intimidating or intense than asking them if they “have.” ‘ want dinner.'”

Of course, being asked about a minute of the day is less scary than the whole day itself. But what if, in the context of hustle culture, this language also promoted the idea that we need to do more, and faster, so that our own Life is precious – and need to accommodate things like errands or free time as soon as possible? “It’s all about life sticking to a strict schedule and you agree to stick to that schedule,” says Stamper.

OK, but the time thing is real

“We vein very little time,” says Nedra Glover Tawwab, a licensed therapist and New York Times bestselling author (her latest book, Drama Free, is out in February). “Prioritizing time has always been a people thing, and because we’re conscious of, ‘Oh my god, I have to do my laundry, I have to cook, I want to make food and work out and seven see people’ and all that stuff that we need to do, we try to save time by cutting our time where it really matters.”

Author and linguist Amanda Montell agrees: “You have to be kind of pumped up to take a really quick shower when you say, ‘I’m going to jump in the shower.’ It’s like reassuring everyone and yourself, “This will only take five minutes. I swear I’ll be in the office soon.'” (Though if you take a quick shower to conserve water during California’s ongoing drought, the phrase can take on a more important, literal meaning. But really, don’t actually leap.)

We rush through the less interesting stuff

Not only are we busy, we also recognize that certain activities are not as exciting or desirable as others. Montell says we often minimize time-consuming activities to make them seem more palatable, which may have impacted the way we speak in the workplace. “It reminds me of corporate bulls – talk like ‘Can we just jump on a call?’ that reflects the general toxic productivity culture in the US,” she says. “You know, it’s almost cartoonish, like ‘hop on the phone’ — am I a rabbit in a business film? Or ‘stick your head in my office’, ‘come to my office’. It tries to compensate for the fact that a lot of what happens in the workplace is drudgery or really tiring or tiring.”

Of course, errands can be so boring that we want to get them done as quickly as possible, but why are we linguistically racing through phone calls and dinners with friends? It’s just become something we all say without thinking. Montell, who wrote the book Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism, says: “I think this language is used to emotionally distance oneself from what is going on. And not having to think too critically about it; that is what cult language does. It allows you to mask a truth, or mask the reality that there is no truth behind a buzzword or piece of us-versus-them terminology. It discourages individuality and pushback.”

When the world we live in doesn’t value spending a day with a friend, phrases that minimize the experience evolve to show it. And when everyone around you says things like “have a bite” or “pick up the phone,” you don’t stop questioning the ideology behind it, explains Montell. “I firmly believe that the language we use can insidiously embed dogma in our minds. Especially when it comes to a language that we’ve only ever grown up with organically and that we take for granted.”

What do I say instead?

1. Try an open-ended request

Tawwab suggests changing our language to focus on being together for any amount of time. “Let’s spend Sunday together or go out to eat. Not a quick bite, but let’s have dinner. There is no time limit, it could be two hours, it could be five.” Channel your younger self and see where that takes you. “I think that’s something we had time for as teenagers and definitely younger adulthood,” she adds. “I remember getting in trouble for staying out after curfew and all I did was hang out with my friends.”

2. Consider the beauty of doing nothing

“I speak Italian,” says Montell, “and in Italian there are phrases like ‘the beauty of doing nothing’, and we don’t have those phrases.”

It pays to think about what you find beautiful in your life. And if you minimize what you do in your language, maybe you don’t want to do it at all?

3. Notice your hurried speech and when others rush you

Tawwab addresses the friend who is on the phone with you and then says, “Okay, let me let you go, I know you’re on your way to work.” “I guess I didn’t initiate this, and I’m the one person on their way to work,” she says. Why are we doing this? “Maybe it’s about stopping people from being late, or not wanting them to finish first, or trying to keep track of their time,” she says. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it contributes to the whole societal busyness trap that keeps us revving our engines and running errands. “I make people say, ‘Oh, I’m not calling you because I just know you’re so busy,'” says Tawwab. “I’m like, ‘I’ve seen all those Lifetime Christmas movies, so you’ll show me a lot of mercy with this whole ‘You’re too busy’ thing.'”

4. Be more aware

“There’s something meditative about realizing you’re rushing and slowing down on purpose because you really don’t need to rush,” says Tawwab. “If we catch ourselves using some of these phrases, like ‘shower quick’, ‘run’, ‘very quick’, ‘just a minute’, try to look at yourself and say, ‘Wow, here I am again trying to accelerate. Just let me slow down.'” She also suggests engaging in practices like doing this and that.”

As you slow down, think about the words you’re using: “I don’t want to tell anyone how to use language, but I think it’s healthy to think about why we use the language we use and why people use it.” to strengthen thinking: “Does the language I use really reflect what I believe and who I want to be? Or am I just saying that because it’s always been said?’” says Montell.

5. Accept that language is about change

If one thing is true, it is that language is constantly evolving. And through our words we can also change the culture in which we live. The theory of linguistic performativity states that language does not simply reflect reality. It creates reality,” says Montell. “Every time you speak a word or even write a word, it causes real action or real, measurable change in the world.”

In fact, Tawwab says she’s been seeing more language of “ease and flow” (being) lately mindful, simplifying and not coercive) emerging. “I have a feeling there’s going to be another slowdown revolution,” she says.

So let’s all say it together: “Do you want to hang out as long as we want this weekend?”

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