Why you should think before using the phrase ‘hey guys’

You are currently viewing Why you should think before using the phrase ‘hey guys’

Addressing a room or a gathering often starts with the familiar phrase ‘hey guys.’ It’s a common choice, one I thought was entirely ordinary until a few years ago when a former co-worker brought an interesting perspective to my attention.

In a room where people don’t identify with a specific gender, the question arose – why do we still use the term ‘guys’? Initially, I dismissed it as a passing trend. Faced with a contrary viewpoint, our minds typically lean towards defense or shutdown. My ego flared, and I felt a twinge of annoyance each time my co-worker gently reminded me of my use of ‘guys’. I was inadvertently excluding or neglecting others in the process.

I recall learning about a study involving preschool kids and teachers addressing the class as ‘hey guys.’ Surprisingly, male children were more likely to respond to the teacher’s questions. On the other hand, female children believed the address was exclusively directed at the boys.

Gender-biased language permeates our daily conversations in phrases like ‘oh boy,’ ‘man-up,’ ‘manpower,’ ‘man of the hour,’ ‘mankind,’ ‘grow a pair,’ ‘don’t be a p***y,’ ‘chairman,’ ‘spokesman,’ ‘policeman,’ ‘fireman,’ ‘actress,’ ‘waitress,’ and the list goes on.

This ingrained gender inequity has been with us since childhood, and it’s high time we challenge the norm and reshape our language. A recent study highlighted the connection between gendered language and reinforcing narratives around gender roles, suggesting that the choice of words may unconsciously perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

Shifting towards gender-neutral terms broadens the conversation, extending respect to everyone, irrespective of gender. Inclusive language fosters a sense of inclusion, value, and empowerment.

Consider alternatives to ‘guys’:

  • Team
  • Folks
  • Friends
  • Gamechangers
  • Trailblazers
  • Humans
  • People
  • Everyone/everybody

When embracing inclusive language, it’s crucial to also consider age, sexuality, disability, and culture, especially through the lens of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Awareness is the key, friends. The phrase, like many others, becomes automatic due to societal conditioning. Breaking this habit takes practice. Instead of frustration, gently and persistently point it out to yourself and those around you. Slip-ups will happen, and that’s okay – kindly remind yourself and try again.

Renowned for her straightforward communication style, which complements her strong drive and persistence in achieving equity goals, Ruhee is the founder of Allied Collective – Australia’s first inclusive facilitation agency specialising in inclusive training, facilitation, design and wellbeing. With a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and a strong academic background in psychology, she has excelled in diverse sectors such as advertising, sports management, technology, hospitality, retail, and the wellness industry.

Ruhee’s experience of being a Yoga teacher for over 11 years and passion for human centered design helps her to bring a deep understanding of wellness philosophy within her facilitation skills. 

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