The Problem with Cussing

Or, perhaps better stated, the consequences of throwing out cuss words in a public arena. And while this is my perspective, it’s not just my perspective.

Choose Your Words Carefully
Choose Your Words Carefully

Last week a friend of mine mentioned that he attended several business conferences that week and in all but one of them, the speaker dropped the F-bomb.

Yes, you read that correctly. Business conferenceS. Subject matter expertS. F-bombS. I hope you are as disturbed by that as I am. Is this the new –low– standard in public speaking at business conferences? I hope not!

Some thoughts from a branding perspective …

Is your vocabulary really that limited?

The English language is rich and robust and there are endless words from which we can choose to paint pictures and convey passion. Even angry or zealous passion.

My response when I hear foul language, especially uttered publicly, is that person obviously has a very limited vocabulary. Perhaps he (or she) believes the use of such language makes him appear to be more vehement in his position, but it’s actually the opposite. It makes him appear crude.

Will the audience remember anything else?

Usually in the course of a presentation, it is the “story” that is remembered. The crafting of a well-delivered tale usually puts the audience on the edge of their seats.

However, my guess is the shock of hearing the F-bomb dropped would erase even the best spun story and become the one thing that stuck in the minds of the audience. Probably not what the speaker intended the audience to remember, but that is -in this case- exactly the subject being discussed by my friend and his colleagues.

Could “cuss-man” or “trash-mouth” follow him forever?

In a word, yes. The next time that person’s name is mentioned as a possible speaker, someone is sure to say … isn’t he the guy (or gal) who unleashed a stream of profanity (because you know how those stories grow) at the “such and such conference”?

Personally, this is extremely disappointing to me. If using cuss words to make points during a business / professional conference is the new -low- standard in public speaking, I guess I won’t be doing much of it in the future.

What are your thoughts? Is it ever acceptable to drop the F-bomb or otherwise use crude language while presenting? Feel free to leave your comments here or, if you are a CFO, join our CFO-exclusive community on Linkedin and post your comments there.

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4 thoughts on “The Problem with Cussing”

  1. Cindy – After reading your blog, “The Problem with Cussing” I saw a post on Twitter by Inc. The post was “The Video with the ‘F—ing Great’ ROI. So I read it and immediately thought back to this post.

    I stand with you and many others that view cussing in a negative light, especially for professionals. What stood out to me in this article was how the company has become successful by the founder spatting off the F-bomb on YouTube.

    It does make me wonder, is business professionalism at a new low, or are people being promoted/starting a business at a new low?

    My opinion, it is never acceptable to use language at a professionals’ conference, unless you are at a professional truck drivers or wrestling conference, facetiously speaking of course.

    Here is that link:

    • Sadly, Chris, I believe professionalism is at an all-time low. It is just one more side effect of a country who has lost its moral compass.

  2. Certainly *I* wouldn’t choose to use profanity at a business conference, but I think it might be suitable for certain types of businesses who use it intelligently for branding purposes. Communication styles are a component of corporate culture, and the use of the occasional expletive can convey that a company has a more relaxed culture, one that encourages individualism and perhaps a touch of rebellion. Not all companies desire to have that squeeky clean professional image.

    It may also be used as a filter to weed out potential clients or partners who are obviously not a good fit. One of my favorite bloggers, Ramit Sethi, constantly berates and ridicules some of his readers, often using colorful language, with the specific intention of driving away readers who do not fit his targeted audience.

    I wouldn’t recommend it in 99% of cases, but I feel like the knee-jerk reaction to be flummoxed by the occasional cuss word is a bit old fasioned and overly corporate.

    • I appreciate your thoughts, Jeremy … even if I do disagree with your statement …

      “I feel like the knee-jerk reaction to be flummoxed by the occasional cuss word is a bit old fasioned and overly corporate.”

      I don’t consider myself old-fashioned or overly corporate, but I do consider myself professional and tasteful, and cussing would definitely not be a fit with “my” brand.

      Our society seems to be losing its moral foundation on a daily basis, and acceptance of foul language from a speaker is, in my opinion, clear evidence of that loss. But then, that’s just me.

      Thanks for reading and for commenting!


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