Handling Essential Conversations by How Leaders Respond

Negative facial emotions expression. Young blonde expressive angry furious nervous woman. Emotional girl full of anger and bad feelings at work.

It’s the stuff comedy legend is made of. During a movie or television program, a situation presents itself and then a character in the show classically overreacts. They might rant or rave. Or cry. or wave their arms. More often than not they make something bad even worse by their action or reaction. It makes for great comedy but not great relationships. Certainly not great leadership. Instead of reacting, we find success when leaders respond.

Reacting doesn’t make for good relationships. And certainly not for good leadership.

Why We React

Marshall Goldsmith calls them Triggers. In his book by the same name, he describes them as any stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions. So some triggers can be good. If we program in our minds a trigger than stimulates the desired behavior then we can build a positive habit. Where things go wrong are the triggers that are automatic. That’s where we tend to react. Some of the things that can cause automatic triggers are

Our Emotions

Negative triggers tend to set off negative emotions. Those negative emotions, left unchecked, will set off reactions.

Let’s say, for example, that an employee comes to you with a problem. There is a major problem with a phase of your pet project. The employee says, “I don’t see any way we can proceed. I think we are just going to have to cut our losses!” What?! This was YOUR BABY!

What happens? Your face screws up and turns red. Arms and body assume an aggressive stance. The words come. “What is wrong with you people! Can’t you do anything right! You’re incompetent!”

The result is we cause a reaction in the other person. They get defensive or aggressive. Communication shuts down. Nothing gets solved.

The unconscious mind is in control

Have you ever talked with someone or watched someone who tends to let everything come out of their mouths? I refer to it as “stream of consciousness speech“. It hits the mind and it comes out the mouth. There’s no governor there. No filters. Whatever occurs to them just gets blurted out.

This occurs because left to its own, our subconscious mind has no limitations. Societal norms. Consequences. Considering the feelings of others. None of that exists there. It’s all about me. So the things we would really like to say and do in our perfect world can just come out when the unconscious mind is in control.

Mindset

Indoor portrait of funny bald european man making crazy face while standing over gray background. Actor performes on stage in play for children. Guy acts weird to avoid conversation with policeAccording to psychologists, a mindset is a belief that affects how we think about something. That belief drives the way we handle particular situations related to that something.

If we believe that all of our employees are inherently lazy and will slack off given the first opportunity, how will that affect our interactions with them? Especially if we see one of them stop to rest even for a moment?

Having a negative mindset about a subject will cause us to react instead of respond. Just having the mindset itself wells up negative emotions. Add another trigger and things explode. 

Overwhelm

While we actually have a huge capacity for information and stimuli, that capacity is affected by flow rate. What I mean by that is how fast and how much information and stimuli come at us impacts capacity. Too much too fast doesn’t allow our mind to make room for more. 

Think of it like making a water balloon. You attach the balloon to the faucet and then turn on the water. If you turn on the water to full immediately the balloon will fill fast and likely blow up from the overwhelming volume of water. On the other hand, if you control the flow of water you allow time for the balloon to expand and not explode.

Sense of Entitlement

This one doesn’t require a lot of explanation, does it? I am sure we have all encountered people who feel they are entitled to something. Especially if you have teenagers living in your home. And when we feel entitled, as if it is inherently ours, we feel the unfairness and injustice of it all when we don’t get it. The feelings of unfairness and injustice trigger emotions that cause us to react instead of respond. 

How to Change from Reaction to Response

When leaders respond instead of reacting, it’s a game changer. By choosing to respond, you permit yourself to take potentially negative outcomes and turn them into positive results. It impacts you and it impacts the people to whom to respond. You put yourself back in control – of both the situation and yourself.

Reactions create chaos. Responses create results!

Business cartoon showing a leader pulling his hair out in response to declining sales as the team tries to remain calm.As dire as the consequences are when we allow ourselves to react, choosing to respond can go 180 degrees in the other direction.

Outstanding positive results are possible when leaders respond instead of react.

So how do we turn the tables? How do we choose to respond instead of react? Try starting with these simple steps.

Breathe

Always, I mean always, take a breath.

The simple act of taking a breath exerts control over the reaction reflex. It doesn’t have to be a deep breath, although that helps. Just breathe in and breathe out. 

CHECK THE EMOTIONS

After that breath, identify what emotions you are feeling. When a situation triggers emotions, that’s when dangerous reactions can occur. Name the emotions. When we name them, it helps us to control them. It’s okay to have emotions; in fact, it’s unavoidable. However, when negative emotions are in control there is almost never a positive outcome.

Determine your mindset

What preconceived ideas do you have that driving your emotions? Is it true? Does it apply in this particular situation?

It may be similar to something you experienced in the past but is it the same? Usually, something is different. A different circumstance. A whole other person than the one involved before. How do the differences change what we do?

Consider your words

What we say when we respond sets the tone for the rest of the conversation. It affects us and it affects the person(s) on the other end. Consider these two sentences.

“That was the stupidest thing you have ever done!”

“Do you think that was the best choice?”

The first is a reaction that will consequently trigger a reaction in the other person. They will get defensive or hurt. Their reaction will be to fight or flight. Either way, you will not get what you want out of this. The second is a response that is non-threatening and actually has the other person respond instead of react. It leads to a discussion that finds solutions.

Question Everything – the Right Way

As in the example above, asking questions is usually a great way to avoid reacting and to disarm a potentially explosive situation. It has the added benefit of allowing you to gather more facts so that your decision making can be more informed. Let’s look at follow-up questions to the one above.

Why do you think that was the best choice?”

“What do you think you could have done differently?”

“What do you think we should do now? Why?”

If, in fact, the person’s choice was not a good one then both of you will discover it this way. And by using this method you not only are more likely to find a resolution but you will have also helped the other person learn a valuable lesson. Perhaps next time their decision will be better. Certainly, their trust in you will increase.

Leaders don’t react. Leaders respond. Because responding is how leaders are able to get the best out of themselves and others.

How can communication improve your team? RESPOND NOW and schedule a free Discovery Strategy Session to see how I walk alongside you on this journey!

 

Active listening leads to understanding

asian man speaking woman listening isolated on white background. Active Listening

Have you ever been misunderstood? Felt like you were treated unfairly because of what you said? Remember a time where an argument broke out from what you thought was an innocent conversation.

It happens to everyone. And it happens because of a lack of listening. In fact, a failure to practice Active Listening is one of the largest causes of misunderstandings and arguments.

While we can’t control how others react or how well they listen, we can control ourselves. We can do our best to make sure that WE are not the cause of misunderstanding. 

And that’s where the practice of Active Listening comes in. Apply these tips and you will have a good head start to be an Active Listening practitioner.

Open posture

Most of the time, our body obeys our mind. Whether consciously or unconsciously, our body will do what the mind tells it. We walk, we run, we touch, we hold. Mouth moves, sound comes out. All because of impulses from the mind sent to parts of the body.

There are times, however, when the mind will pay attention to the body. Feet pointed towards a door denotes a desire to escape. The mind picks up on that and says, “Hey, we are already late!” Off you go. 

Arms and legs crossed give signals of protecting or shielding. Your mind senses danger, either physical or verbal, and goes into protection mode. It is basic non-verbal communication.

Active Listening Posture

Let’s turn it around. If you face the speaker with arms at your side or resting on a surface, you display openness. The mind picks up on those cues and therefore commands the rest of the body to pay attention. Even more so, the speaker’s mind will likely pick up on that as well. Tone and mood changes when the speaker perceives you are open to what they have to say.

Eye contact is your friend

The eyes, they say, are the window to the soul. That really stands out when you are engaged in conversation. Your eyes tell the speaker that you are anxious to hear what they have to say. Or they tell them you would much rather be anywhere but here.

When listening, your eyes should be open. Look at the speaker. You want to send the message that you are open and relaxed. Smile and your eyes and the rest of your face will follow suit. 

But Not too much

On the other hand, be careful about making too much eye contact. Too much eye contact and you look like you are staring. Use the 70% guideline. Make eye contact with the speaker about 70% of the time. More than that and you look like you are staring. 

Keep in mind, however, that the 70 rule is a general rule. A speaker who is introverted or not very sure of themselves may be actually put off by 70% eye contact. Note how the speaker reacts. If you are making eye contact and they look away, then you should look away too.

Undivided attention

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone while they are thumbing away on their smartphone? It’s annoying! You can’t really tell if they are paying attention or not. And if you bring it up, they try to tell you they can do that and listen at the same time. They are a great multitasker!

As we have mentioned before, multi-tasking doesn’t work  . For anyone. If someone you are talking to tries to multi-task, you have a right to ask for their full attention or talk another time. If someone is speaking to you, you owe them the respect of your full, undivided attention. If you are unable to give it at the same, you owe them the privilege of getting it another time.

No Interruptions

Psychologist listening to her patient and writing notes, mental health and counseling. Psychologist consulting and psychological therapy session concept, toned photoEmail stays there until you look at it. Phones have voicemail. Let them be until you are done. Unless you have an urgent family matter pending, there should not be a reason to allow a speaker to be interrupted. 

And YOU shouldn’t be the interruption either. Sometimes you will hear things you feel you need to react to right away. Don’t. What you want is to be able to respond, not react. Almost always when you react instead of respond things do not go well after that.

Don’t react. RESPOND.

And the time to respond is after the speaker has finished, not during. Don’t spend time trying to formulate your response while they are speaking either. You are spending time and space in your mind coming up with your response, which means you aren’t listening anymore. Stephen Coveyonce said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.” Is that true of you? Take some more advice from Covey. “Seek first to understand, then be understood.

Affirm the speaker

Feedback is valuable. As John Maxwell says, “Feedback is currency for leaders.” It’s pretty much valuable currency for anyone. When you are engaged in a vital conversation, it’s important there too. While the other person is speaking, they will pause occasionally; sometimes to catch their breath, other times to gather their thoughts. 

This is the perfect time to provide a quick affirmation. You want to let them know you are interested, that you are paying attention, and you want to hear more. You can learn a lot of phrases but the best response is a genuine response based on what they have said so far. “That’s interesting!” or “Tell me more.” or even “Really?!” It can even be as simple as a quick little “uh-huh” or “OK” or “yes“. 

Keep in mind the objective is to encourage the speaker, not stop them in their tracks. Use language that is natural for you and don’t use the same one every time.

Question for clarity

When the speaker completes a thought, take the time to ask a question. Your objective here is seek understanding. So your question should require more than a yes or no response. You also want to take great care not to make your question a challenge or rebuttal. Look to fill in the blanks that may be left by what the speaker has said so far.

Tell them what they said

Once the speaker has finished it is the perfect time to respond. Start by repeating back what they said in your own words. “So what I hear you saying is…” and then repeat it. One of two things will happen. Either they will confirm your understanding or they will correct your understanding. Either way, it’s a win-win. They know that you actually paid attention and you know have a clear picture of what you are responding to. 

Search the Feelings

Words have meaning. Part of that meaning is conveyed through the way that they are said. A study by Psychology Professor Albert Mehrabianonce discovered that WHAT WE SAY accounts for ONLY 7% of communication. The rest is handled by the WAY WE SAY IT and WHAT OTHERS SEE when we are saying it. So to really get meaning, we also have to get feeling. Listen and look for emotional content. A tone of voice, volume, and emphasis. And also

Look for Cues

Cartoon of business people who are having a non-verbal communication meeting.Body language also contains a good amount of context and content. Some say it is as large as 68% of meaning. A growing number of people are disagreeing with that. Whatever the number actually is, there is no denying that non-verbal communication is critical to your achieving understanding. Gestures, stance, and facial expressions all convey intent and emotion and meaning. 

The more you pay attention to the whole picture in communication, the more meaning and understanding is gained. Communication actually occurs. That is practicing Active Listening.

Need help building excellent communications within your organization or team. Schedule a free Discovery Strategy Sessionwith me today to see how we can help you.

 

Discover the Traits of being a great communicator

one person speaking in the ear of another and she looks confused. Not a great communicator.

Are we really good a communicating? Ask anyone individually and the answer always seems to be a resounding ‘YES!’ Probably as you read the headline of this post you told yourself “Yeah, I’m pretty good!” That’s because every single one of us, even if we are not a professional speaker, would like to be known as a great communicator. It means we have impact and influence.

Not Really All That Great

Unfortunately, we are fooling ourselves. Think about this. If we are so good at communicating then why is it that a Gartner study shows that 70% of workplace mistakes are communication driven? And according to author David Grossman, businesses incur about $26, 041 per employee due to poor communications

If we are all great communicators, why such a huge communication breakdown?

Most certainly it is clear that communication is not really taking place. 

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
George Bernard Shaw

Learn to be a Great Communicator

In spite of that, the good news about communication is that it is primarily a learnable skill. You can learn to be a great communicator when you know what and how and where. What makes for excellent communication. How do you work on the skills. And where do you start.

To help with that, take this little quiz below. Being a great communicator involves not just how we say things but also how we listen. In fact, being a great communicator is more about listening than talking.

So this quiz includes factors for each. For each statement, identify how well you do it. This quiz is meaningless if you are not totally honest with yourself so be tough. Give yourself 1 point for rarely, 2 points for sometimes, 3 points for usually, and 4 points for always. Explanations of each concept follows the statement.

Great Communicator Quiz

I allow the speaker to finish without interrupting

interruptions prevent communicationStephen Covey once said, “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the intent to reply.We cannot really fully understand what someone else is trying to say if we don’t let them finish. That requires some patience. With some, you may have to hold on when they pause and wait until they really are done. 

Do you find yourself often stopping someone in mid-sentence to either cut them off short and give your response? If so, give yourself a 1 or 2. 

I look for the subtext.

When listening it is more than just words, it is the context and meaning behind those words. You need to be able to read between the lines. Not make assumptions, but search for meaning. Also, look at non-verbal clues for the emotion behind the words.

As the speaker, non-verbal cues are also a big indicator. Rigid posture usually indicates defensiveness. Look at eyes and facial expression. Are they facing you or turning sideways. Arms or legs crossed can sometimes mean they are closing off to you. Look for more than one cue to confirm your conclusions, however. Sometimes arms or legs crossed is more for comfort than defense. 

Give yourself a 3 or 4 if you are good about looking for clues; a 1 or 2 if you aren’t.

I actively try to retain important facts.

Communication is intended to be bilateral. What that means is that whether you are speaking or listening you are meant to be active. A part of active listening is making sure that you get at least the critical points of the communication. Take notes if possible.

I repeat the details of the communication to the subject in order to get everything right.

It’s not enough to just confirm hearing. We must confirm understanding as well. Achieving understanding is the responsibility of both the speaker and listener. As speaker, confirming understanding allows us to say it again a little differently. As the listener repeating the details back to the speaker means they can confirm that you understand the right message. 

I avoid getting agitated or hostile when I disagree with the speaker.

emotionally reacting when you don't agree prevents you from becoming a great communicatorHave you noticed this one doesn’t seem to get a lot of practice out there today? When we don’t agree with the statements of others strongly it is somewhat natural to have an emotional reaction. Unfortunately, when emotions take over we can no longer depend on our hearing for accuracy. We will either hear what we want to hear or what we think they are going to say. As difficult as it is, we need to keep emotions in check if we really want to reach understanding.

I tune out distractions when listening and I avoid being a distraction myself.

The majority of people believe they can multi-task. They are all wrong. We cover that in detail here. You can’t tap away on your smartphone and give someone your full attention at the same time. You can’t hold multiple conversations concurrently and be effective. EVERYONE deserves your full attention.

I make an effort to be interested in what the other person is saying.

If you are sharing a message with someone, you can tell when they aren’t even vaguely interested in what you have to say. Their attitude and their body language give it away and inevitably their words will too. You may do the same when someone is speaking to you. When we aren’t interested it doesn’t get our attention. Start by trying to be interested to give the communication a chance. Graciously end the conversation when it is no longer interesting.

I avoid the use of jargon or industry slang or acronyms.

Blah Blah Blah message. Thats what it sounds like when you use jargon.Within almost any group there will be shortcuts in communication. The slang and acronyms are typically known only to those in that circle. Do you know what RCA is? Your interpretation of that acronym would depend on your circle. It could be the company Radio Corporation of America. Or it could be Reformed Church in America. In some industries it stands for Root Cause Analysis. When communicating with others, we can’t assume they speak or understand our industry language. We must speak in terms they understand.

I attempt to connect with my audience.

Connection is critical to communication. When people know you care about them they are likely to be open to what you have to say. Do you try to show your audience that you care about them and not just getting your message across? Do you try to find common ground with them?

I adjust my message to my audience.

The same message cannot be conveyed the same way to the CEO as you would to the worker on the factory floor. It’s not a matter of perceived intelligence or even one of rank. It’s a matter of context and what they can relate to. Do you change what you say and how you say it to relate better?

I invite questions.

In general, I’ve discovered that most people who don’t welcome questions are either unsure of their message or not interested in whether you really understand it. Questions create the two-way exchange that leads to real understanding.

Add it up

Now add your score up. Here’s the breakout.

Did you score in the 9 to 17 range? You have a LOT of work to do to become an effective communicator. Think about some formal training and professional feedback.

If you scored 18 to 26 then you do employ some effective communication skills. You may want to identify areas where you can improve and intentionally develop those. Again, some formal training and coaching may help.

A score of 27 to 35 means you are pretty good to great communicator. You likely work at communicating effectively. What can you do to raise that score? A coach can help take you up to the next level.

If you got 36 you got a perfect score and you are truly a great communicator! Someone should take your DNA and clone you. That or you should be more honest with yourself.

Let me know how you scored or how you felt about the quiz. Contact me at psimkins(at)BoldlyLead.com. If you are looking to improve or help your organization, schedule a free Discovery Strategy Session with me TODAY.  

 

Finding Leadership Time

now clock.. Demands on our leadership time are everywhere. There’s lots of information out there about time management and how to find more time and get the best out of your available time.  In our world, we have lots of things that demand our time and want a piece of our day.

  • Our work which can take 40 or more hours a week
  • Our house which demands we clean it occasionally
  • Our family which would like meals every now and then
  • Our kid that would like us to take them to dance class
  • Our other kid that would like us to them to football practice
  • Our other other kid who would like a playdate
  • Our elderly parents who would like use to drop by and help them with something
  • Our church committee that wants us to volunteer to help out with the rummage sale
  • Our spouse who would like us to pay a little attention to them while they tell us about THEIR day
  • The dog who would like to go for a walk
  • Our laundry that needs to be washed
  • Our friend who would like to catch up over coffee/beer
  • Our local charity that wants us to participate in a fund raiser

And the list goes on.  From the moment we rise until we collapse exhausted in our bed, there are demands on our time.  They come at us from all directions and call us to action on their behalf.  And we respond, because we are people of action and people of action take action when called upon in the service of others, right?

Too Much

So, how do you deal with all that?  Isn’t there some special trick or time management technique that is going to help me get all this in?  Isn’t that some super secret technique that I can apply that will help me manage and free up my time?

The Time Management Solution

Well, as a matter of fact, there is!  This is actually a secret that has been available for centuries but little used as of late.  

In fact, it seems like many people aren’t even aware of this secret, not even sure of its existence.  

It is both simple and hard.  

Yet if you apply it constructively, you will be amazed at how much time it will free up.  

Do you wanna know what this secret is; the key to handling your time with skill and clarity?

Here it is.

Listen up!

Come closer!

The secret is:

Say NO.

no is one of the best time savers in the world

No joke! It’s that simple.  Say NO.  When someone says, you are such a go-getter can I convince you take on another project for our church committee?

NO.

You don’t owe an explanation.  They are not entitled to one.

You are not an evil person for saying NO.  You are not selfish.  

In fact, you are being considerate and caring.  You are wanting to save yourself for the things where you can really add value by choosing the places you serve and when you serve.   A Mayo Clinic report even suggests that learning to say NO is healthy, allowing you to be at your best for others.

In context, the key is you are not going to say NO to everything.  However, you are going to say NO when the activity is not the best use of your time, talents, and abilities.  

You will say YES where the opportunities to serve allow you to provide maximum value.  As John Maxwell says, you must learn to

Say NO to the good so you can say YES to the best!

A Story of Not Saying NO

Years ago, I was asked by my church to serve as the church treasurer.   A high profile role and I was lured by the promise that such a position would bring me to the forefront of the leadership within the church.  Let’s be clear. I will likely never be known as a financial wizard.  My wife, Sherry, balances the checkbook and handles accounts.  She is good at that.  I am not and don’t really want to be.  Despite all that, I said yes.

Big mistake! 

Because of my lack of skill, it took way too long to complete any of the responsibilities of the role.  Balancing accounts became an all-nighter.  This was not made easier by my general distaste for doing any of it anyway.  So my motivation waned, the job suffered, and eventually I left the role by mutual agreement.  

I said yes to the wrong thing.  It was not the best use of my skills and abilities and did not allow me to provide maximum value to the church, so we all suffered as a result.

Get Your Leadership Time Back

Employ the secret today.

Expect the best out of yourself and refuse to be placed where you cannot give it.

Do yourself and others a big favor and employ the strongest leadership time management tool you have: your ability to make a choice.

How to Say No Gracefully

I learned this secret from Bob Burg. I have applied it many times and it works just great! If it works for you, the credit goes to Bob.

When someone makes a request you wish to say no to, use a response that is both gracious and polite. Simply say,

“Thank you so much for considering me. While it is not something I choose to pursue, I want you to know how grateful I am that you thought of me.”

If they press the matter, give a shorter but final response. Still polite and gentle.

“I would rather not. Thank you.”

As I mentioned earlier, the one thing you NEVER DO is give a reason for saying no. When you give a reason, you have now opened discussion for someone to convince why your reason is wrong, ill conceived, or thoughtless. Don’t. 

Choose to give your best by saying no.

Struggling with how to communicate effectively with the people who matter? I can help you with strategies to make you more effective. Contact me TODAY for a free Discovery Strategy Session.

 

Breaking the Habit of Profanity in the Workplace

picture of businesswoman with profanity bubbleI was concerned primarily with profanity. Moments before my first on-air shift at a radio station I confessed my desperate nervousness to my Program Director. “I am scared about saying the wrong thing!” I professed. “What if suddenly I accidentally let a cuss word out or something?

My PD assured me “You should be worried. It’s exactly the right attitude to have. The FCC doesn’t take that well!

At the time, the Federal Communications Commission, who oversees broadcast media, had very strict rules about the use of profanity on the radio waves. A fine for the station and even for you personally was not completely out of the question, depending on severity and frequency.

“I knew that the profanity used up and down my street would not go over the air..so I trained myself to say ‘Holy Cow!’ instead. –Harry Caray, famous Chicago Cubs announcer

Our Words Make a Difference

I don’t remember the Program Director’s talk making me feel any better. I did manage to get through my few years in broadcast radio without letting a swear word slip out on-air. And there was another benefit to his little “pep talk” – it made my very aware of how language and the words we use make a difference.

Therefore, I want to encourage you to restrict the use of profanity overall – in the workplace, at home, in the community. Despite it’s prolific use today in the movies, television, and so forth, it still has a very negative aspect to it.

“All hockey players are bilingual – they speak both English and profanity.” -Gordie Howe

Here are some other reasons profanity doesn’t help

1. It’s Unprofessional

A study conducted by CareerBuilder.com found that 81% of employers believed swearing (profanity) brings an employee’s professionalism into question. A good 64% said it caused them to think less of the employee. Being a professional by its nature demands a certain level of self-control that profanity belies.

2. Words Have Impact

You know the old adage we used to say to the mean kids when we were young. You know,

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”

Well, it’s a lie. Study after study has repeatedly shown that it DOES hurt us. Deeply. We might laugh it off as though we are too tough for anything like that to affect us, but it does.

The truth is that there is evidence according to authors Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman that words can literally change your brain. They suggest that just seeing a list of negative words makes you feel worse and disrupts many of the operational centers of your brain. Other research suggests it also changes the attitudes and behaviors of others.

Negative words, therefore, will trigger negative behaviors – not just in others but in ourselves as well.

3. Words Have Emotion

Words alone have minimal impact. It is the emotional context we put behind words that gives or takes away impact. Curse words by design have negative impact and so there is not really a way to say them with a positive impact. Some will try to say positive things that include profanity but the intent will diminish.

Think about it. If someone compliments you by saying “You F—in’ Rock!” does it really make it more positive than to just say “You Rock!“? In fact, if you look at it, the use of the profanity actually lessens the impact rather than enhances it. You focus on the F—in’ and not the rockin’.

4. It Desensitizes

The more profanity is used the less impact it has. On the surface that sounds like a good thing. Great! Curse up a storm and it eventually won’t bother anyone anymore!

Yet it also means it won’t have the impact you intended it to have. While there are some that curse as part of their second nature, overall we use curse words precisely for the impact they have; either to stress the emotions of your words or to intimidate or just to show power.

However, it’s like taking drugs. At first a little has effect but then after a while it takes more and more to have the effect we want.

5. It Impedes Communication

cartoon of man's profanity speech bubbles building a wall between peopleWhen people react negatively to curse words, their impulse is to defend. When they are defensive, they are no longer open to truly hearing what you have to say. Their response will almost always be a negative one; whether they become openly aggressive or opt for a more passive-aggressive stance. Either way, while the use of profanity triggers emotional response, unless your intent is simply to intimidate or cause emotional reaction you won’t reach your communication goals.

6. You Could Be Fired

While you do have freedom of speech guaranteed by the Amendment One of the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court of the United States also defined a category of exceptions they called Unprotected Speech. Part of the exceptions are many of the curse words we use. They are considered obscene and inflammatory and therefore are not protected by the First Amendment. It falls in the same realm as fraudulent speech or defamation.

Can be Beneficial

That all being said, most of do curse at least on occasion, me included. For those of who do once in awhile let loose with an expletive or two (or three) are actually finding a little bit of pain release, whether physical or emotional. A study reported at PsychCentral.com actually found it provides an outlet for pent-up emotions. We are less likely to to become violent when we let loose with a few profanities and can actually improve our well-being.

The same study, however, did find that high frequency diminished any of the positive effects. So if you are going to use curse words, be careful of how much and how often.

“Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” -Mark Twain

So intent matters. Overall, remember that profanity is pretty much meant for negative and not positive impact. Choose the words you say and when you say them for optimal positive impact.

Do you use curse words in the workplace? Do you work with people who do? How do you think it affects work relationships?

Share your thoughts here in the comments or email me at psimkins(at)BoldlyLead.com