Unfortunately, I overheard a man on an airplane the other day. I could only hear one side of the conversation. The man I could hear was talking loudly and using vulgar language that it was very offensive to me. And I think to everyone else. After a few minutes of the ugly experience I turned and tried to see if I could make eye contact. Maybe I could make face to face contact or say something so he would know I was offended. But I couldn’t see where it was coming from. He quieted down and I figured someone else had stepped in. But this scenario played out several times throughout our journey. The vulgarities would begin; continue for a short time and then silence. I don’t know if anyone else tried to make it stop. I hope so.
During one of the quiet times I came up with a plan. I’d follow the person off the plane and watch where he went. It would then play it out this way. Hopefully he’d be picked up by his wife and children. As he would be greeting his family, I‘d go up to him and introduce myself. I would use the same language he used and in the same manner. I’d do this intentionally in front of his wife and children. In my plan the man would become so irate with me for using this language he would insist I stop. But I’d reply that I had overheard him on the airplane and that’s how I thought he always talked. I imagined it would be an eye-opening and embarrassing moment for him. None of this happened – but I thought about it.
Language is a tricky thing. I grew up being told that the words we choose have a direct correlation to our intelligence. The more intelligent the less dependence on vulgar language one needs to be to make their point. I believe this is true. Many comedians use course and off-color language. They are not really funny, but people tend to laugh at the shock. But when they are funny, it comes from the situation. Their jokes could have been funny, maybe more so, if they had used more intelligent language.
When teaching public presentation classes I’m often asked about the use of ‘certain’ words. My response: intelligent people can express themselves in language that doesn’t offend anyone. My advice: don’t use any words you wouldn’t be comfortable using in front of your grandparents. (I am quickly learning to change that to great-grandparents.) Great leaders have command and control of their tongue.
Points to Ponder –
How would you rate your use of vulgar language? (Always? Sometimes? Never?)?
Do you use different language when you are around different people?
Do the values you hold influence your use of language?
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