Tolerance is a Bad Word, We Should Stop Using It
Article by Jacqueline Arnold @ TwnetyTwo13 (1 March 2023)
When training pets or animals, the three basic commands are, “sit”, “come”, and “stay”. The words are simple, to the point, easy to understand and tell the animal exactly what is required of it.
Similarly, one of the cardinal rules in public relations (PR) is the use of positive words; words that encourage the desired outcome we wish to see. For example, “In case of an emergency, stay calm”, or “In the event of a fire, exit the building quickly and in an orderly fashion”.
We use words that focus on the desired behaviour, such as “calm” and “orderly”, rather than on the negative words such as, “don’t panic” or “don’t run”.
I’d like to apply the above two examples to a current topic: the call for Malaysians to be more “tolerant” so that we can be more united and live in harmony.
It’s wonderful to once again have people recognise that we are a country that’s rich in diversity.
Inter-cultural, inter-racial and inter-religious harmony is utopia. Sadly, the higher-ups are using the word “tolerance”.
At face value, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the word. But look at these examples and think again:
“Living in a tropical climate, we must tolerate insects and pests such as cockroaches, lizards and ants.”
“Women have been tolerating gender inequality since time immemorial.”
“We tolerate our neighbour’s cat pooping in our garden and inconsiderate parking for the sake of keeping the peace in the neighbourhood.”
These sentences clearly show that the word “tolerate” has a negative connotation. It usually refers to something unpleasant, irritating, or even repulsive, that we have no choice but to put up with.
So how are people expected to live in harmony if they are “tolerating” others? It’s an oxymoron.
To truly affect change and encourage the desired outcome, the words “acceptance”, “understanding”, “harmony”, or even “respect”, ought to replace “tolerance”.
Only then will we be able to foster better interaction and start to once again see unity and harmony between the different cultures, races and faiths.
I truly cannot believe that the communications advisers of the high-ups don’t realise this.
The Rakyat are not easily fooled. We can differentiate between lip service and sincerity.
The government communications machinery should be promoting that there is strength in diversity; that our rich cultural diversity makes us unique and that the camaraderie we share can potentially make this a united and prosperous nation.
Newsflash: You can’t use “tolerant” and “united” in the same sentence. It just doesn’t jive.
Doesn’t racial “harmony” sound better than racial “tolerance”?
My advice, tolerance is a bad word. Stop using it.