Image Source: Pixabay

Ever hear of a word that’s the opposite of the same word?! The name for that is a contronym. Perfect for 2020, wouldn’t you say?!

Now I didn’t know this, but sometimes contronyms are called Janus words because Janus was the “ancient Roman god of doorways, of beginnings, and of the rising and setting of the sun, usually represented as having one head with two bearded faces back to back, looking in opposite directions.”

Anyway, here are some of my faves:

  • Wear
    • as in something that lasts (wears well)
    • as in something that erodes (wears away over time)
  • Buckle
    • as in something that tightens under pressure (a belt buckle)
    • as in something that loosens under pressure (weak knees)
  • Left
    • as in went away (he left before paying the bill)
    • as in still here (the bill remained unpaid)
  • Bolt
    • as in to secure (like a closed door)
    • as in to quickly leave (through the now opened door)
  • Screen
    • as in to show (like a movie on the TV)
    • as in to hide (like the TV I’m blocking so you can’t see the movie)
  • Off
    • as in working (the alarm went off)
    • as in not working (the alarm is turned off)

Just Scratching The Surface

  • Fix
    • as in a problem (Uh-oh, I’m in quite the fix!)
    • as in a solution to a problem (No worries, I just fixed it!)
  • Trim
    • as in to decorate (like a Christmas tree)
    • as in to remove branches (from a Christmas tree)
  • Wind up
    • as in to begin (the pitcher’s starting his pitch)
    • as in to end (the pitcher’s pitch went all the way to the backstop!)
  • Help
    • as in to assist (here, let me help you)
    • as in to not assist (sorry, I can’t help you)

Contronyms and Leadership

The point is simple enough: If we’re sloppy in how we communicate, as leaders, our messages can be all-too-easily interpreted in a way that’s opposite of what we intend.

  • “Keep me posted” – you may just be curious or honestly interested, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come across as you’re micromanaging
  • “Get it to me ASAP” – you may expect them to do it right away, but if they’re in the middle of something, it just may not be ‘possible’ to get to it right away
  • “I’ll get back to you on that” – you may, indeed, intend to do so, but if you forget, or don’t particularly want to, or whatever, you’re seriously undermining your ongoing credibility

Don’t Just Assume

It doesn’t matter how good a communicator you are — or think you are. When in doubt, ask… and never be afraid to be in doubt!

Post Script

I hope this post has helped you learn something about yourself. If so, please make a point to share your insight with others as a way to "lock in" your learning.

While you're at it, I'd also appreciate you telling them about LeadershipTraction and the resources available, here, on-line, at including:

     • my other blog posts
     • my leadership tutorial downloads
     • my newsletter archives
     • the curated content on my LeadershipTraction Facebook page
     • and, of course, my book, Leadership Haiku


- bz

P.P.S. If you have a question or comment about this post, just let me know. I'll do my best to get back to you, straightaway.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top