We need to talk about the word “diffuse.” People are using the word diffuse a lot lately, and they are all using it WRONG. I see it all the time. “Well, I wanted to diffuse the tension, so I told a joke.” (It actually gave me physical pain to write that sentence.)
According to good ol’ Merriam-Webster, to diffuse something means to “permit or cause to spread freely.” Think of it this way: why do you use a diffuser? You use a diffuser to spread a lovely aromatherapy oil into the air. Release it. Spread it around. When you put on your diffuser (only not mine, because it’s broken and I had to send the company a video of what was happening with it and they are now sending me a new one. Yes, a video. I considered embedding the video but even filming the video felt like such an exercise in ridiculousness that I decided to spare you.)
OK, let’s wander out of that cul-de-sac of recent customer service experiences and find our way back to the subject.
When you turn on a diffuser (not mine, but we already covered that) a lovely plume of scented air emanates from it, and soon, people will be walking through your space sniffing the air and saying, “My, what is that lovely smell?” And you will answer, “It’s a stress-relieving essential oil that I have diffused by way of this lovely diffuser.” and they will answer, “Wow, I feel completely relieved of my stress because the stress-relieving essential oil has been diffused into the air and I can smell it everywhere!” The essential oil is spread freely in a pleasant way.
Now, if you were to try and diffuse tension, then the tension would be spread everywhere. It would be like that Batman movie where everyone smells the poisoned air that the evil doctor created and they all start hallucinating that everyone they meet is a monster. Remember that? Not pleasant. That’s why the word you are supposed to use in this case is “defuse,” which means (Merriam-Webster again) “to make less harmful, potent, or tense.” Doesn’t that make sense? To use another movie analogy, what happens in pretty much every movie involving a bomb? Someone has to defuse the bomb. They cut the right wire and the bomb clock stops at 3 seconds and everyone breathes a big sigh of relief and then hoists the person who defused the bomb up on their shoulders because he has saved the building or the neighborhood or the whole flippin’ world. YAY!
So, if you have watched a movie in the past decade, you can figure this out. If you want to reduce or eliminate tension or a crisis (or a bomb), you defuse it. If you want to smell a stress-relieving essential oil, you diffuse it.
Got it? Good, now spread the word because I’m tired of reading this crap.