Foul Language

Our internal and externally-facing language is key to how we treat ourselves and how we're perceived by others. 

Many fall into a dangerous habit of using self-deprecating language as a form of assimilation. It reminds me of a turtle. It can stick its head and legs out of the shell when it perceives it's safe to proceed, but can yank them back inside to safety when it perceives there is danger nearby. Self-deprecating language is simply a mask for our fears. We use it to ask permission for someone to like us, to fit in, or to downplay our successes as to not seem arrogant or offend those around us. As a success coach, when I hear people using self-deprecating language it's an instant red flag. It's what I call "foul language." It serves no positive purpose whatsoever. In fact, it's a form of manipulation. And, it's key to how people perceive you and how, over time, how you perceive yourself.

Habits are created by repetition. We create muscle through repetition in weight training. We can drive an A-to-B route almost with our eyes closed because we've repeatedly driven it and committed the cues along the way to memory. Language is no different. The type of language we use and the way we express it gets committed to memory. The more we use "foul language" the more habitual it becomes. And the harder it becomes to be aware of it in the moment and to, ultimately, change the habit. By continually using "foul language" we're also creating a habitually induced perception of who we are to our loved ones, our co-workers, even new people we meet.

First impressions are everything, right? So if you're using "foul language" at a job interview you've given the interviewer permission to judge you accordingly. And they will. You could be the most competent person in the building, but completely rule yourself out of a job because your language couldn't back up your skills and, as a bonus, get misperceived as someone you're actually not.

In order to really make forward progress it's important to become keenly aware of the words you choose. We all have the power to choose every word we think and, certainly, every word that escapes our lips. Yet, many of us fall into a pattern of speaking without much thought or editing the words we say.

I'm always fascinated by loud mouths, the people who blurt out anything that comes to mind, often seeking a reaction. Where most people see them as funny or annoying, I see them in a world of hurt and instantly start picking apart their life story. I can tell whether or not they were loved by their parents, what kind of students they were in school, their level of achievement in life, how they resolve conflict, and, ultimately, if they're a big, fat liar trying to create the perception that they know more than they do or that they're someone they're not. And, I can do it in about 4 or 5 sentences.  

I love to watch TV interviews and panel interviews. They're a great opportunity to see how people perceive themselves and how they want to be perceived through the language they use. The people who give me pause are the ones who speak eloquently, often without a single "uh" or "um." When asked a question they take a beat to quickly process the information, form an appropriate answer, edit it internally, and deliver it to perfection. This instantly forms my perception of them as thoughtful, emotionally intelligent, respectful people. And then there are the self-deprecating loud mouths or "shy" people who I perceive as clearly hiding something. They're the ones trying a little too hard to get a laugh from the audience or outwit the interviewer or their fellow panelists, circumvent the question with noise when they don't know the answer or play the "shy," self-deprecation card to seem less threatening and more likable. (see: Hugh Grant) I tend to come away more impressed by those who have their shit together, who respect the process and respect themselves enough to be present, thoughtful and conscious of every word they say. They are powerful without being arrogant. They command respect without demanding anything. And I perceive them as confident, self-aware people who haven't allowed themselves to fall into the trap of using "foul language."

"The loudest person in the room is typically the dumbest."

The most critical change you need to make if you're on the path to realizing a goal or manifesting a dream is to eradicate "foul language" from your vocabulary and begin retraining the muscle memory and habits associated with "foul language." Moving forward requires you to get rid of anything that's holding you back or keeping you where you are. Language trumps your socio-economic status, your physical limitations, or anything physical for that matter. It's the most powerful tool you have in your arsenal to determine how people perceive you and, most importantly, how you perceive and "receive" yourself.

Get into the habit of choosing your words thoughtfully. Don't simply blurt out the first thing that comes to mind seeking a reaction. Take a beat, process the information, edit it, and then speak. There's no shame in being thoughtful. It will actually serve you much better than being a loud mouth. And the funny thing is, you'll actually speak less, but command much more respect with the words that you choose. And you'll begin to listen and recognize all of those who are hiding behind their words instead of using them thoughtfully and (emotionally) intelligently.




Phoenix NormandComment