- Debbie Dougherty
The Word of the Year for 2023 is. . .
Updated: Jan 27
By Debbie S. Dougherty
I have a word of the year. It is true. Every year I come up with word or phrase that I use to guide me through tough choices through that year. A quick survey of the internet suggests that I am not alone in developing a word (or phrase, really) for the year. Apparently, it is a trend. Who would have guessed that I would ever be trendy! One blogpost suggests 250 different words you can select from. Webster’s dictionary’s word of the year is #gaslighting. I am not sure that is the word I would choose to guide my 2023, but hey, you be you.
How does it work?
My “word/phrase” almost always results from events that have left me mulling about where I fit into this world. For example, some years back we visited my in-laws in Mexico. They both constantly used the word “fantastic”, and I was struck by how using that word made their world fantastic. I wanted my world to be fantastic and I wanted to see the fantastic in the people I engaged with. So, for that entire year, I used the word “fantastic” a lot. Guess what. My world that year was fantastic.
Sometimes my words are a little bit less, well, positive. In 2020, my word was “Jackass.” This was the beginning of the pandemic and I needed to draw back from toxic online relationships. Using this word freely allowed me to call out the polarization that was making most of us into jackasses. In 2021, my word of the year denigrated into “Dumb-ass.” I started using this word after election deniers tried to take down the United States democracy. My use of “dumb-ass” escalated after January 6, for what I believe are obvious reasons.
2022 Lean into It.
By the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, I was exhausted from the COVID-19 pandemic. I was grumpy from the constant polarized communication that had come to define our civilization. I needed to lean back into my relationships, my work, my enthusiasm, and my hopefulness. This past year, inspired by the language in Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, I made a decision to “lean into it,” with “it” being my life, my work, and my relationships. And I did lean into it. I finished my book, I developed a website, I created this blog, I developed new friendships, rekindled old friendships, and found my laugh again (which had gone missing for the previous two years). This phrase has been healthy for me this past year.
2023 Let's Do This Thing.
For 2023, I have selected the phrase “let’s do this thing.” I do not know the origin of this phrase, although it was made famous in the Disney movie Ratatouille. There are two key words that make this year different from 2022: “Let’s” and “thing.”
Let’s do this thing. I find myself yearning to reengage with other people. I have allowed myself to become intensely focused on MY projects and have largely disengaged from my larger heart community. My heart community is you and people like you. If you are reading my blogs then you probably share a common desire to make a better, smarter, kinder social space.
I have been fearful of engaging with you in this personal way. Why? Because I admire you and because I don’t want to disappoint you. Because the subject matter I focus on in the bulk of my writing leaves me vulnerable to abusive communication. Because it is a scary world that we live in, and I have long perfected the art of circling the wagons. But no more. I have things I want to do. And I want to do those things with you. I want to invite you into my world. I want to share my wisdoms with you, and I want you to share your wisdoms with me. I want my heart community to collect into a space where we can do the difficult work of making a better world.
Let’s do this Thing. I have a lot of “things” I want to do. With all the chaos that has surrounded us in recent years, with the ongoing crises stemming from political polarization, from climate change, and from skyrocketing random acts of violence, who knows how long I will be able to focus on long term goals. I need to engage now, or risk not being able to engage at all. Now is the time. Today. This moment. Now.
As part of my Let’s Do This Thing year, I have decided to write a weekly blog for one full year and distribute it as widely as possible. You are reading my 10th weekly blog. I have specialized knowledge that comes from years as a professor, researcher, author, and communication consultant. I am good at interpreting this knowledge for a larger audience (Not to brag or anything, but I was once featured in O Magazine. I have been interviewed for other public outlets as well, but come on, O Magazine!).
This year’s blog will largely focus on three topics.
1. Sexual harassment, sexual violence, predatory sexual behavior—these things continue to damage. I see lots of well-meaning people with lots of well-meaning advice that tends to guide people toward processes that continue to fail. Why do they fail? Because they oversimplify a complex problem. If we are going to make better decisions, it is important for better information to be available. This blog provides that better information.
2. Communication and emotions—everyone thinks they understand emotions and offer all kinds of strange advice. As a result, we get things like toxic positivity and toxic civility. We get people “raging” and “venting” at the expense of healthy relationships. We need to do better with our emotions if we want to be better communities.
3. Teaching difficult subject matter—Although students increasingly struggle with mental health issues, they are also seeking more information about difficult topics. They want to know how to solve thorny issues. In fact, my undergraduate students asked me to teach around my new book, so next semester I will teach a class on sexual harassment and organizational culture. I am pretty confident that some of my blogs will spin around that experience.
What do I get out of all this effort? I want to be part of a community. I am not charging for this blog. You can subscribe for free. If you want to read my book, that will make me happy, but is not a requirement of being part of this community. Maybe someone will pay me to do a speech (I love public speaking!) or to do some consulting work (I also love consulting). But the real goal is to find my heart community and to put the right information out in the world so that people can make better decisions
Action Steps: So, what do we do?
Let’s create a community.
Let’s read each other’s work.
Let’s have conversations around tough topics.
Let’s Do This Thing. If I write about it, will you read it? Will you do this thing with me?
Debbie S. Dougherty is a professor, author, consultant, farmer