What is political correctness?

To be politically correct is to express your thoughts, ideas, behaviour, etc. in a way that does not offend other people in terms of their occupation, gender, sexual orientation, race, culture, disability and age.

Why is being politically correct important?

Because we are living in a globalised world. We contact people from all kinds of backgrounds, culturally and geographically. To have a healthy relationship, you need to know what you should or should not do or say. Conflicts, even small ones, can shatter all the connections you have made – back to square one with just a single word.

So, how do you avoid that situation? First, you have to always be aware of what you are saying. You also have to know if the topic or content at hand could possibly be offensive to anyone, and learn to choose your words carefully. Also consider your listeners’ backgrounds. Here are some examples:

  • Refrain from referring to those with mental disabilities or who are mentally challenged as ‘retards’, as this is insensitive and hurtful.
  • Avoid using racist words, even in jokes.
  • Avoid using exclusive terms such as ‘chairman’ or ‘spokesman’. Instead, go with ‘chairperson’ or ‘spokesperson’.
  • Do not use offensive terms when referring to sexual orientation, race, etc.

However, it is also important not to be overly politically correct to the point where you begin chastising or criticising others for their choice of words. Indeed, if you become too extreme in terms of political correctness, you may find yourself becoming offended at even the smallest mistakes that others make. It is always a good idea to take a less extreme path in everything, including political correctness.