This week I posted the “If I held a Ted Talk what would you expect it to be about” meme on Facebook. And of course as a coach there were many suggestions about personal development. But the answer that made me scream with laughter was ‘ Effective Communication Through Swearing’ !!
This person knows me well.
In my social network I am known for swearing. A lot.
(The Vikings I fight and command each with every summer will stand testament for that.)
Now as I said at first, I laughed. But my second thought was that maybe he is right.
Could swearing be good for effective communication?
My swearing isn’t confined to my social world. I swear at work. I swear in my public speaking. In my workshops. And sometimes in my writing. Obviously I don’t do it as much as in my private life. However, swearing at work hasn’t hindered me. In fact it seems to help. Many of my colleagues know me as the person who can cut through the BS and get shit done. I am valued for my honesty.
It was time for some google-fu research. And what I found amazed me.
Research is beginning to prove that Swearing is good for us!
Coming from a fairly conservative British family I was not raised to swear. I began that as a rebellious teenager. In my social conditioning swearing was bad. And yet all the evidence says otherwise.
Swearing improves our tolerance to pain.
A study published in 2011 found that swearing can increase your ability to withstand pain. Time reports that researchers believe that swearing can activate your body’s release of natural, pain-relieving chemicals that have a similar soothing effect to drugs like morphine.
Swearing gives a sense of calm
Neel Burton, a psychiatrist based in Oxford, England, said “The health benefits of swearing include increased circulation, elevated endorphins, and an overall sense of calm, control and well-being”.
According to the experts it does.
So swearing makes us feel better. But does it actually improve our communication?
According to the experts it does. Recent research says that people who swear are effective as communicators. And that is not just in our private circles but in our professional circles as well.
People trust people who swear
Although we are brought up with a cultural taboo on swearing. Research shows that people who swear are considered to be more honest. Maybe it’s because they let down a socially constructed mask and just say what they mean. However, in advertising, tv, films, games, political speeches people swearing happens as a carefully planned part of marketing strategy. Politicians especially are more likely to be considered honest if they swear. Some studies have shown there is a strong connection between habitual swearing and lying less. Participants in the study were connected to a lie detector and the people that swore more in normal conversation lied less.
Swearing gives conversation emotional context
By swearing, we not only communicate the meaning of a sentence, but also our emotional response to the meaning — our emotional reaction to something. Communication is a dicey game and although on paper we all speak the same language we all know that in practice it’s easy to misunderstand another person’s emotional response. When you swear you are subconsciously communicating your emotional response to the listener, making your thoughts clearer.
Swearing Makes you more likeable
Fact: Everyone loves a rebel. Using social taboos in deemed inappropriate situations is an easy way to rebel from a social norm and people like it when you do it. Think about it, would the book ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK!’ be as interesting to you if it was called ‘The subtle art of not caring’ . Similarly the book titled ‘You are Badass’ has a powerful impact. Would it have the same effect if the title was ‘ You are Awesome’? Probably not. The taboo makes us like them. Identify with the author. And makes it memorable. Swearing implies trust and intimacy as we swear around people we trust. And people like people who trust them enough to be intimate, ergo they like you.
Swearing creates a bond
Author and world expert on the effective power of swearing Emma Byrne discusses in detail in her book “Swearing is Good for You“, some studies showing how swearing can fuel intimacy and bonding “From the factory floor to the operating theatre, scientists have shown that teams who share a vulgar lexicon tend to work more effectively together, feel closer, and be more productive than those who don’t,” she writes. A New Zealand study, explored how factory workers exchange “fucks” in a complex code of politeness. And study published earlier this year backs up this and other research, suggesting swearing with colleagues can help create “a sense of belonging, mutual trust, group affiliation … and cohesion.” I mean when someone swears in a cosy way, we do it back. We are sharing a taboo and therefore have a bond.
These are just a few of the reasons why swearing can be good for communication. There is loads more research out there and it’s a fun rabbit hole to have a look into if you have the time! In writing this post one of the favourite things I discovered was that not only do we swear, so do Chimps! The animal famous for throwing pooh to show displeasure when taught sign language, of their own accord, turned the words pooh and dirty into their own form of swearing. The same way we use sh*t. Well how about that.
I honestly don’t feel so bloody bad about swearing a lot anymore! In fact my dear I don’t give a damn!
Next time you want to release the stress. Release your profanity and allow the swearing to commence – just like in FAther Ted! If you want to lessen tension, make some friends try placing a swear word in your babble stream and see if it helps.
When has swearing help you to communicate more effectively? Let me know in the comments below.
From my heart to yours I hope you have a bloody marvelous weekend !