Comming from the 2nd/3rd world and living in the 1st now, I often have the problem of speaking in a way counted often as politically incorrect. Political correctness intends to avoid offense or disadvantages to a group in the society, but I grew up in a country where language offense and pointing group's disadvantages were something normal in the daily language.

According to the guide from WikiHow the impact lies on being kind and to avoid disrespectful language, is this the main reason to be politically correct?

What is the main reason to be "politically correct", why is it called "being politically correct" and "how to be politically correct" are my questions, though there is a lot of information about the last one and not so much about the first two questions.

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    Let me paraphrase, "What is political correctness" is a hard question to answer because it is deeply subjective and will depend on where exactly you live now. The purpose is also an open debate. How politically correct you have to be also depends on context and personality. A strong, charismatic and intelligent person that knows people well can deviate more from what is generally seen (by whom? This is where the debate can get ugly) as correct. If you are bad with people, live in a hip part of town and don't get the idea, better stick with it. So in short, please add away more context
    – Raditz_35
    Oct 27, 2019 at 13:58
  • Hey there, welcome to IPS! Just to let you know that I cast the last "too broad" vote because you have interesting questions but too many of them at the same time and some are lacking details. So you may want to 1) ask separate questions for each one and 2) maybe edit this one to have it reopened? Also, you may want to take a look at our faq about writing a good question.
    – Ael
    Oct 28, 2019 at 6:23

1 Answer 1


First, you need to know the origins of the phrase. It is the opposite of "politically incorrect". 20 years ago, we didn't tell people "be politically correct" we told them "don't be politically incorrect" or "you can't say that, it's politically incorrect." But that phrase itself went through an interesting transformation. It was first said as a mocking thing by people who liked to say racist or sexist things and complained that now they couldn't, because it was "politically incorrect." The connotation was that it wasn't incorrect at all, and was fine, but some people (you know, those people who bring politics into everything) were stupidly complaining and saying it was wrong when everyone knows it's fine. Then, over time, the people being complained about embraced it, used the phrasing themselves unironically, and came to use the opposite phrase, being politically correct, as something to aim for.

A quick first approximation is that being politically correct is being polite. You don't ask intrusive questions. You don't tell people in group X your thoughts on why X people are not good at a particular thing, why most X people are poor, how much better it is to be in your group than group X. You don't have to do the opposite and say X people are great and better than you, you don't even have to stop thinking that X people are disadvantaged, you just need to refrain from sharing that opinion with people in group X or in a context where they (or people who care about members of group X) might hear you and be hurt. For example, if you're with a number of officemates, you don't start to explain why you think same sex marriage should not be allowed, or women shouldn't be able to vote, that sort of thing.

A more advanced version, for those who have practice with the "just don't be rude; keep quiet if your thoughts and opinions would hurt those who hear them" version is to expand your own awareness and consider the possibility that people in those "lesser" groups have something valuable to contribute: in the workplace and in general. That in some cases they bring an advantage; different backgrounds and experience, different priorities, that can strengthen your company, make the product or service you're selling more useful, or get the job done more quickly or smoothly. Be willing to look past your first impressions that someone is black, a woman, gay, way more religious than you or whatever and see a person who has true strengths that are welcomed and needed. Most people find this hard to do until they've spent pleasant time with people in those groups - and you get that from the "be polite" version of being politically correct. Once you start to think this way, you find yourself listening to suggestions from people you once ignored, defending them when other people make hurtful jokes or comments, and noticing when your workplace acts to exclude people who want to be included.

Most of all, don't be politically incorrect in your humour, your political opining, your off-the-cuff comments. Don't assume the woman in your team wouldn't like some activity you're inviting all the men to, or doesn't drink beer. Don't assume the unmarried man on your team isn't in a committed long term relationship, and make decisions based on his having free time. Don't assume you can tell what sport a person likes to watch based on their skin colour. If you need a single rule it would be this: the rest of the world usually doesn't need your opinion. If you can't share it without hurting someone (or you're not sure because last time you shared a similar thing someone got all offended even though there was absolutely no reason to because it's science and science is completely unbiased and rational), just save it. Share it another time with people you don't have to work with, attend university with, and so on.

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    you suggested that disabled people are stupid, and that "normal" people would not want to use an app for disabled people. Both of those are pretty offensive. If you don't think so, it's likely you didn't imagine what it would feel like to have someone talk that way about a group you are part of. The fact it didn't occur to you it would hurt someone does not reduce the hurt at all: it often makes it worse in fact. Oct 27, 2019 at 16:38
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    It's not just about wording. If you really think disabled people are stupid, there isn't a polite way to say that. Why bring them into it? What is your real objection to a simple user interface? If it's oversimplified, do you think some people might think it has less features? Have a harder time finding them? Choose a more complex product instead? Talk about that and leave disabled people -- and whether or not people don't want to use their products -- out of it entirely. Oct 27, 2019 at 16:47
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    I recommend not doing that. It's pointlessly hurtful. Take the time to express yourself more precisely. It's more useful. Say you convince me with your "people will think it's for [pejorative word]s!" Now what? What do I change? If you told me it's a marketing problem, a discoverability problem, a usability problem, I am getting an idea of what you want to be different. Your easy and painful joke isn't even moving the design discussion along. Oct 27, 2019 at 16:59
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    You are more likely to learn this skill (which it seems people at work have told you that you need) if you stop arguing about how arbitrary and unnecessary it is and listen when people explain it to you. I applaud you for wanting to learn it, but my lessons are now over. You have asked why and how to do it, I've given what I think is good advice, and if you feel a need to tell someone that you can say what you like and the people who feel hurt by it are the ones who are wrong, please choose a different person to tell: I've heard it enough. Oct 27, 2019 at 17:21
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    I'd just point that it is not a matter of coming from 2nd / 3rd world, it is a matter of empathy and being objective in your communication. Saying "I'm responsible for what I said, not for what you understand" is one of the biggest fallacies out there - the so-called "burden of communication" lies with the speaker, not with the receiver. Oct 28, 2019 at 8:52

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