Many years ago, in another professional life, we were having a discussion on Sales. Specifically, the discussion was about how to set pricing in the electrical wholesale house.
One of my management trainees, Jake, decide he wanted to chime in. Quite innocently he stated, "I was having a conversation with my Division Manager about how you can gouge some contractors easier than others."
"Excuse me," I said, "what did you say?! Did you say gouge?!"
"Yeh, why?" asked Jake, completely unaware of where I was going with this.
"Because," I answered, "the words we use are important. When was the last time you ever heard the word "gouge" used in a positive way?" I went on. "You haven't, because "gouge" basically means "to steal". I was on a roll now! "It's like the word "rape". There will never be a positive context in which a person will say that they were raped, or had raped someone. Unfortunately I've heard some salesmen say "man I really raped that customer!", and I wonder what the hell they were thinking! How can they get satisfaction out of bragging that they'd gouged their own customer?!
Now look, as a business owner, I am not here to work for free; or "cost plus". Nope. I'm in business to make a "fair profit", and I'm constantly looking for "Partner" customers and vendors who will allow me to make my fair profit, and at the same time, I will price my services in a manner that will subsequently allow them to make a fair profit.
Back to our story. What I told Jake was, "the discussion that he should have had with his DM was, not how some customers can be gouged more than others, but how some customers are more difficult to make a profit off of, than are others." This is not demeaning to anyone! And it is staying honest to your personal and professional ethics.
The words we use matter because they affect our mindset. If we are intent on "gouging" our customers, then we don't care about them. We will do what it takes to get every last penny from them, and hope they come back for more abuse. But why should they?
If our intent is to make a fair profit, and we price our material so our customers can then sell it at a fair profit, then perhaps we can become Partners in our businesses, and he'll gladly come back for more!
Yes indeed, the words that we choose do matter! They affect how others think about us, and they affect how we think about ourselves and others. If you think nice, you'll act nice. If you think mean, you'll act mean. And for gosh sakes, in this day and age, we could all use a lot more niceness...!