Try listening to the news or political interviews now days without hearing statements starting with “Look!” or “Listen!” Not so long ago, such exclamations were rude and insulting. In many contexts, they still are.
Imagine a person being interviewed for a job starting sentences with either of these words.
Interviewer: “Tell me why as a young person you chose music over sports?”
Interviewee: “Look!” I never liked sports.”
It’s rude — plain and simple. The interviewee above comes across as defensive — even aggressive — in response to a logical question.
Yet, we hear “Look!” and “Listen!” daily as what communication experts refer to as aligning actions. Some aligning actions are quite useful. “Look!” and “Listen! are, however, often used to make innocuous statements sound significant. Unless said pensively or apologetically, for example, “Look!” and “Listen!” can easily sound like “Look (or Listen), you idiot!”
It’s time to question and quash this habit before young people inadvertently acquire it and find themselves not getting jobs or acceptances to college because they used “Look!” or “Listen!” with a person who was clearly looking and listening — thank you very much!
We have moved into a period of greater directness, especially in televised media. That does not mean that abrasive short-cuts to gravitas work in the real world. They don’t. The next time someone says “Look!” or “Listen!” to you, try calmly telling them that’s exactly what you’re doing. Perhaps it will help them discard a verbal habit others find offensive. It might give them pause. If you’re a manager, try banning those words at meetings. You’ll likely reduce conflict. Additionally, you’ll be doing the people present and all of us a great favor.