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Hot Words & Hot Language

We all choose our words deliberately. We have thousands of possibilities to choose how we arrange those words but each individual selects their own special form. In most cases, people have particular sensitivities to particular words/phrases that they use and these are called[1] ‘hot-words’ & ‘hot-language’.

A hot word could be any of the following but the single characteristic of them all is that they probably carry emotive power. As such, they need to be noticed and care taken in referring back to them in the conversation. The hot-words might include:

  • Any value-judgment referring to themselves
  • Action words about self, like accomplished, managed, developed
  • A named emotion
  • Sensory words, like ‘felt’ and ‘sensed’
  • Expletives
  • A word that sounds out of place
  • Precision words
  • Extreme value-judgments (both positive and negative) about others

When an individual uses ‘hot-words’ it can be very useful to re-use that word rather than re-interpret these words. If you do re-interpret they will assume that you are not listening and worse, that you may be under-valuing them or falsely exaggerating their positives for effect.

There are exceptions and these are explained here

[1] McLeod (2007) Self-coaching Leadership, John Wiley, Chichester & NY.