The Performance Pro

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Choose Your Words Wisely

Talk about image! A trend, which started in the pop culture years ago, has today spread and infected even the most traditional settings. And, it’s not just the kids using foul language. Recently a very renowned sales “guru” conducted a Seminar in our area. I had the opportunity to help work the product tables in exchange for free admission. Now, I had heard him before and while his expertise is unquestionable, I just wasn’t up for dealing with his choice of words. The last time I heard him I found his continued use of profanities to be offensive and, frankly, decided now I had better things to do with my time.

Like with so many undesirable habits, it seems we tend to passively condone other’s use of bad language. Then, before we know it, whether we are cut off in traffic, or the copy machine has a paper jam at the office, we hear “it” fly out of our own mouth. (Who said that?!) In this era of complacency, casualness and indifference, the lapse of language proprieties joins the long list of ways that we sabotage ourselves. It corrodes self-esteem, lowers standards and affects how we are perceived by others. And, in the business world,
it can drive customers away.

The following information may just shed new light on this self-destructive habit; and instill an appreciation for our reaping the benefits of using the English language the way it was intended.

Hal Urban in his book, Positive Words, Powerful Results, maintains that what we see as the evils of bad language is more a matter of civility, respect and courtesy. In making this point to his classroom, he gave his students a number of questions to answer:

Would you think differently of me if I constantly used swear words?
Are there places in our society in which you don’t want to hear swear words?
Are people who use foul language in public polite or rude?
What do you reveal about yourself when you constantly swear?

Here are some of the replies that these teenagers responded with regarding people who constantly use foul language:
They’re angry.
They’re uneducated.
They’re rude and inconsiderate.
They have limited vocabularies.
They aren’t creative or imaginative.
They’re clueless.

Once again, we as adults have the opportunity to set good examples and train our youth to fill tomorrow’s leadership roles. Actually, from the above information it sounds like they already have a pretty good grip on the destructive influence of bad language—could they have learned that from us? Perhaps, as adults and leaders, it’s time we give more thought to the words that we choose, and before we know it, we may just be raising the bar on ourselves.


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