February 2018 –People who speak Finnish and Mandarin are more likely to save more, practice safer sex, and weigh less than those speaking English and Greek. That’s according to Yale Professor and Behavioral Economist M. Keith Chen who discovered that languages affect how people feel about the future. English, for example, requires people to emphasize past, present, and future. For example, an English speaker might say, “Yesterday it rained,” “It is raining, and ‘Tomorrow it will rain.’” In contrast, a Chinese speaker “can say, ‘Yesterday it rain,’ ‘Now it
His thesis is uniquely relevant to D&I professional and corporate
At Jonamay Lambert & Associates, we are exploring the subtle and subconscious ways word choice and how we speak can confuse, offend, and discourage others. More importantly, we are investigating how to use language to promote an inclusive workplace, inspire employee engagement, and enhance our personal brands. We are gathering expert ideas and developing resources
- A glossary of terms to use and other to avoid and how to reference people who are different from us and why (e.g. Why are Latino and Asian preferable to Hispanic and Oriental?).
- An overview of how to communicate respectfully to the transgender community.
- Review of new research on how our subconscious impacts our responses to language and how this knowledge can help us become more effective.
- How to avoid words that communicate weakness or uncertainty (e.g. “I believe” implies confidence
while“I think” suggests indecision).
- The differences between active and passive voices, why active voice is generally more effective than passive, and when to use passive voice (The Nike slogan “Just do it” is active; “It is what you should just be doing,” is the slogan in a passive voice.).
In the coming months, we will continue to explore these and many more ideas and concepts, focusing on meeting your needs. We will share them in appropriate formats, such as white papers, webinars, presentations, or other communication vehicles. We are excited about this venture and hope you will find our efforts useful to you.
Who knows, maybe Dr. Chen’s research will help us all become better communicators and happier people in the process.
 N Chen, M. Keith, “The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets,” American Economic Review 2013, 103(2): 690-731 (Last accessed February 4, 2018). http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty/keith.chen/papers/LanguageWorkingPaper.pdf
 Chen, “Could your language affect your ability to save money?” TEDGlobal 2012, June 2012 (Last accessed February 4, 2018).
 Harris, Aisha, “Where I’m From: How a trip to Kenya changed the way I think about the terms African-American and black American,” Slate, July 29, 2014