Here are three commonly used words that describe people. In my mind, they have a negative influence on the way we think about the folks we work with.
Consumer. Isn’t that a horrible word when used to describe people? How about something a little more respectful like customer? When I am a consumer, I am merely consuming goods and services in the same way that a car consumes gasoline, but as a customer I actively buy goods and services.
User. Being in the software development business, this word is used frequently to describe the good folks who work with (and purchase) our software, hardware, and technology products. In a previous life, I worked as a therapist in outpatient alcoholism and drug abuse treatment centers. User is what we called the people coming through our doors.
End User. Obviously a variant on user. Isn’t a bit redundant though to call a person an end user? If there is an end user, it would seem likely then, that somewhere there must be a beginning user.
Words like these depersonalize people, coloring the way some folks think about others. When we use language that accurately reflects who we do things for, it is more likely our software, customer service (think carefully about the meaning of those two words), and products will be designed to serve the “real people” who work with our stuff on a daily basis.
Those of you out there who are end users of my blog are welcome to comment. Being the consumers that you are, please suggest other words of the same genre.