I have a colleague who can't communicate without using expletives. Is there a way I can convince him to consider cutting back on the cussing?
Swearing is more standard than singular now. One analysis shows the average person uses about 15,000 to 16,000 words each day, of which 80 to 90 are curses ranging from the benign "damn" to the more belligerent "F bomb."
Part of the problem is that with many people talking like they're in an episode of "Deadwood," we have become desensitized to expletives, so the person swearing rarely receives negative feedback for his or her verbal misbehavior. That said, it's important to note that swearing often serves an important function for some people – that of punctuating a feeling or even moderating emotional or physical pain. So I would advise a tactful approach that doesn't admonish the person in question, but steers him toward a less foulmouthed way of communicating his ideas.
The next time he peppers his dialogue with profanity, stop him and say "I've noticed that you use [expletive] very often when we talk. When you do that, I listen more to the cursing than to the rest of the content you're trying to communicate." It's also important to emphasize that you're suggesting this as a friend who finds he communicates more effectively when his language is cleaner. Finally, thank him for understanding how it affects you. You'll likely find that he's sworn off swearing – at least around you. E
, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org