While driving to a 24 hour Walgreens in the wee hours of the night, I was listening to the radio and heard an interview with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History.
Rebbi Telushkin pointed out that the Rebbe believed in the power of words and he made it a point to use optimistic, positive words. So strong was the Rebbe’s belief that it influenced the author, Rabbi Joseph, to use the words “due date” as opposed to “deadline” when talking about projects. “Due dates” are synonymous with births, “deadlines” with, well, death.
The Rebbe carefully chose his words and therefore used the phrase beit refuah, when he spoke of a hospital. Translated it means ‘house of healing.’ Most people used the term beit cholim, which means ‘house of the sick’.
Think about that.
When you hear the word “hospital” what do you think of?
If you’re like most people, you’ll probably say, “That’s where the sick people are.” Maybe you’ll mention something about people getting better but, odds are, the first thing that’ll probably come to mind is sickness, not healing.
That’s interesting because the word “hospital” comes from the Latin word hospes. The word meant a foreigner/stranger or guest. It’s actually the root word for “hospitality”, “hostel”, “hotel”, and “hospice”.
Do you consider hospitals synonymous with hospitality? While the Ritz-Carlton has given customer services lessons to healthcare facilities, and many hospitals are upgrading their food quality and redesigning their interiors, the cultural change hasn’t occurred yet. People still don’t identify hospitality with hospitals. For that matter, unfortunately, I don’t believe that healing is identified with hospitals. I’ve even heard of hospitals being described as those places where people get sick!
Some places are making the change and trying to change peoples’ impression of what healthcare facilities represent.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America has taken the step of using green colors and logo that has a tree and a person playing and a dog. They clearly want to convey their commitment to life and living. Their facilities are even designed in V-shapes, almost like open arms. They really don’t look ‘hospitally’. Check them out some pictures here.
The lesson here is that language is important. From healthcare terms, to renaming strategic plans, to renaming project ‘post-mortems’, I believe it’s important that we use terms that take us in positive directions and make us think of what it really is that we want to accomplish. Too often we just use common phrases, seldom taking the time to understand the impact of those terms in shaping our worldviews and how we approach problems.
Whether it’s healthcare or a relationship you’re trying to improve,
think about the words you use,
think about the metaphors that describe your challenges,
think about the ramifications of words,
and choose words that build up, that inspire, that give life, that cause you to look at people and situations in new and exciting ways.
The Rebbe would be happy…