One Simple Step to Improve Your Image: Stop Swearing

My great-grandfather was a soft spoken man; he never uttered a swear word in his life. Until one day, in the middle of an argument, he said “D-mn it” and the world stopped. No one dared to breath and no one dared move. This man was mad. Not just mad, but furious.  Image Credit: http://www.sodahead.com/fun/i-speak-fluent-profanity-do-you/question-2570163/?link=ibaf&q=&imgurl=http://images.sodahead.com/polls/002570163/profanity-73809626759_xlarge.png

Now compare that to Carol Bartz, former CEO of Yahoo!, who was famous for her profanity (caution: linked article includes strong language). One incident in particular stands out to me. This incident is when she declared on a live conference call with Wall Street analysts, “Nobody’s f-ing doing anything.” She then followed her exclamation with “Excuse me. I knew that would slip out one of these times.” Incidents like this were a PR nightmare for the company and many speculate that Carol’s language was part of the reason she was fired.

So let’s get to the “who cares” of the matter: you should. Who would you rather be? The man who grabs everyone’s attention and makes people listen or someone who is famous for not having enough self-control to prevent embarrassing herself and her company?

Some of you may be thinking that this approach is stuffy and outdated, but I have found that if you replace your swearing with language that has positive and meaningful content people will rarely find you stuffy. If you have to rely on the sensationalist tactics of foul language in order to avoid being stuffy you may want to consider learning how to improve as a conversationalist.

This is why I stopped swearing. I wanted people to focus on what I was saying, not which words were coming out of my mouth. I wanted to break myself of the habit so that I could use my language intentionally. Swearing is not only a bad habit, but one that has the potential to offend people around you and tells people you don’t have any self-control. It can even lead to losing your job as “thirty-eight percent of the managers who have fired employees for violating office etiquette cited cursing as the reason for the termination.”

There are a plethora of articles available on why swearing is good for you. Pain relief, control, retribution, humor, social bonding, self-expression and personal health are all reasons given in the article 7 Best Reasons for Swearing. The one thing that they all mention however is that most of these “benefits” only work if you don’t swear very often. “The key is to do it sparingly and not to get angry at the same time, which would be very bad for you—as well as terribly vulgar.” I would go a step further and claim that these benefits are irrelevant. The benefit of not swearing far surpasses the possibility of a brief surge of adrenaline or the self-satisfaction of “non-violent” retribution. That benefit is respect. Having the self-control to monitor your language and only swear when the situation calls for it gains the respect of those around you. Not only do you end up looking more professional and more in control, but no one will ever compare your language to the people on Jersey Shore.

How do you kick the habit? The first step of breaking any habit is to remove or limit triggers. For most people this means limiting the amount of swearing you hear in a day. Generally the easiest way to do this is by changing the media you are consuming. If you limit yourself to songs and movies without cussing in them you may be cutting the number of swear words you hear in a week by more than half. Ask your friends and family to limit their swearing around you. This doesn’t have to be an awkward conversation, simply tell them that you are trying to develop a more professional persona and it would help if they lessened the amount of swearing they did around you. The key is to not be condemning of their behavior (after all you were using the language too) as this can cause people to become defensive. You can also use replacements (“goodness gracious” is a personal favorite) just be careful to use these sparingly as the point of the exercise is to control which words you are using and not just blurt things out.

Ultimately you will find that you are no longer even thinking swear words anymore. You may even find that people will unconsciously stop swearing around you so that co-workers who don’t know you are trying to quit will stop swearing at work. I can tell you from personal experience that this makes for a calmer and less emotional environment. Once you have achieved the ability to stub your toe and shout “drat” instead of the alternative you can use your new found self-control to help break other bad habits.

 

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Coffee House Revolution

According to Statista, a leading online statistics company, there were 51,000 coffee shops in the United States in 2013. If you are like me, caffeine from these shops in some way coffee-cup-405918_1280fuels your life. For most Americans caffeine gets us through the work week. We even socialize at coffee shops and cafes, meeting for dates, catch-up sessions and networking. Heck, my church hosts a men’s Bible study at our local coffee shop (and my personal favorite) Café Moka. I think though, that Americans are missing out on one of the historical purposes of coffee shops.

As you sit and sip your latte think about this: coffee shops have been around for centuries, according to Colonial Williamsburg the first coffee shop in England was opened in 1650. In fact, as coffee popularity waned in Europe it is probably due to the Boston Tea party that the popularity of coffee continued in America. John Adams himself told the story of a landlady who stated, “We have renounced all Tea in this Place. I can’t make Tea, but I’le [sic] make you Coffee.” He wrote to Abigail of this story and related that, “Accordingly I have drank Coffee every Afternoon since, and have borne it very well. Tea must be universally renounced. I must be weaned, and the sooner, the better.” (See masshist.org for the full letter). In Europe and America coffee houses were considered places where men from various levels of society could gather for business and social exchange. This free exchange of ideas lead to the term “Penny Universities,” referring to the penny admission fee paid at the door in London coffee houses. Wouldn’t it be great if we could reinstate this tradition? Arrive at the coffee shop not just to sit with friends and socialize, but to debate and exchange opinions with others; possibly even people you don’t know?

The next time you’re standing at the counter waiting for your decaf grande non-fat no foam extra hot latte (or cup of black coffee) take a look around and see if there is anyone you might start a conversation with. Don’t just sit down and open up your laptop, ask someone how their day is going, or what they think of current events. Be polite and friendly and maybe if enough of us do it the term “coffee shop university” will be used in the future.

3 Ways To Keep It Classy

Have you ever walked away from an interaction with someone else and wondered,”What must that person think of me?”

Audrey Hepburn - Classic Style

Audrey Hepburn – Classic Style

Have you ever wished to have a better understanding of how to be like the classy people you admire? Behavior is so important, because as Benjamin Rush tells us, “Remember at all times that while you are seeing the world, the world will see you.” At this point, like me, you may be asking yourself, “But how do you do it right?” Let’s take a look at a few classy people from history and see what they have to say.

1) Considered one of the premier fashion designers for classy clothing, Ralph Lauren actually started his company by selling ties and spent more time learning business than fashion design (don’t worry guys, Lauren also has an awesome car collection). Here is what he says about his style,  “I know I have a signature. I know there’s a New England sensibility. I know there’s a cowboy sensibility. I think there’s a sports sensibility. They’re all mixed. But they all come from non-fashion. They all have an origin of being natural, timeless, real—comfortable sensibilities.” Natural, timeless and real, pretty good advice for achieving your own classy image, even if you don’t wear Ralph Lauren. To be truly classy you cannot simply follow trends, but you have to incorporate these elements and be yourself. This way the world is looking at you and not a concoction of other people’s ideas.

2) Audrey Hepburn is another American icon. Known for more than her good looks and style, she is considered by many to be The Example of class. Probably because of quotes like this: “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” This quote shows that the backbone of being classy is character, a positive attitude (looking for the good in others), self-control (prevent yourself from speaking negatively), and confidence. These qualities will go a long way towards keeping it classy and will certainly help you in other aspects of your life.

3) It might surprise you to find this last person on my list, George Washington. Most commonly known as the first President of the United States, as a young man he wrote out multiple times the Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. This work, thought to be his school writings, has 110 rules about etiquette and though many are no longer applicable (how does one politely deal with fleas?) he covers some of the most important aspects of being classy. For example, “Every action done in company, ought to be with some sign of respect, to those that are present.” This is one of the best rules to follow if you want to be classy. It’s so simple too – be respectful to people around you; not only will you win friends this way, but you will never be seen as trashy or obnoxious.

These are just a few people with some good advice for you on how to keep it classy. Check out Pearls Before Bling next week for an article on Coffee Shops and intellectual discourse.