Cursing Out Loud

I am a public speaker, presenter, and teacher.  I speak in front of audiences about 20 times each year and I love what I do.  Underneath the very visible public image, I am a Hypnotist and Inspirationist.  I influence people.  I also teach what I do as a Hypnotist and a presenter.  Every summer, I teach a long workshop for all who want to improve their presentation skills.  Presenting is influencing.  Believe me, I use influential, persuasive, motivational, inspirational language all the time—with clients, audiences, and with the people I love and who love me back.  My entire career is based on communication, language, and linguistics.

Here’s one question that I deal with from my students all the time: “Is cursing during my presentation a benefit or a detriment?”  Here are some thoughts.

For this argument, I will just deal with curse words that are obvious, not borderline; the ones that are squarely in the area of stuff Mom would not want us to say anywhere.  I’m just going to deal with any words or language that we were not permitted to say in classrooms of our youth.  Anything you would not say to a judge in any courtroom to which you are summoned.

Know your audience. Some groups, especially younger people, will appreciate a few curse words.  You might warm them up or get some giggles that way. It also seems to work well with audiences of like-minded people who are bonding over an issue, political stance, or cultural touchstone.  It also seems safer if you are part of your audience’s demographic group.

Know yourself. Don’t do it if any of George Carlin’s Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television don’t naturally roll off your tongue. If you can’t curse as effortlessly as Chris Rock, you won’t fool anyone, so don’t even try.

Know your topic. Cursing might be entirely inappropriate to what you are talking about.  If it seems out of place while you are rehearsing, better to just use the style that fits.

Know your content. Content is not the same thing as topic.  Content includes everything: introduction, jokes, anecdotes, conclusions, assertions, summations, and your style.  If your content can support cursing and if all the other conditions are in your favor, it will probably go over OK.

Don’t use that language as a place-holder or substitute. If you are presenting yourself as an expert speaker, have an expert knowledge of language, jargon, slang, and all parts of grammar.  Don’t pretend by using a few curse words in place of clear language.

It’s never necessary. It may be funny, cool, endearing—or it may not be any of those things.  There are many deciding factors, and you can’t be in control of them at all times.   You can go with the flow, but that flow is collaboration between audience and presenter.

Be present to the Greater Good. If there is anyone in your audience who might be turned off by cursing, why do it?  Why not show consideration, rather than alienation?

Be true to yourself. Always be true to your language and your way of speaking. If you are inclined to curse before your audience, that is an indication of your attitude, and that’s highly visible to everyone. If you feel that your character can be questioned based on your language, then it’s up to you to decide how to express yourself in order to be yourself.

Finally, in just about every case I’ve ever seen by a public speaker who wasn’t a stand-up comedian or actor performing a monologue, cursing went hand-in-hand with uneducated grammar.  If you ever pay money to hear a presenter who uses curses in place of clear language, I hope you will ask for a refund.

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