Is it Ever Appropriate to
Use Profanity?

Boy Cursing at Someone

The use of profanity is not uncommon in today's society.  If you pay attention to conversations around you, you'll definitely hear a slip once in a while.  Offensive or not, is it ever appropriate to use swear words?

There are plenty of reasons we use this kind of language - and the gestures that either accompany some words or stand on their own.

  • You're upset or angry
  • You want to provoke another person
  • To show off
  • To fit in

What You're Really Saying

The words you say have power.  They can uplift, offend, instruct, welcome, and send away.  They also tell others a great deal about who you are!

Which is why using profanity is never an exercise of good manners.  Ever.

Even when used to make a strong point, or to get someone's attention (because you use this type of language so rarely), it has a way of lowering the quality of your conversation.  And while that point you were making may be long remembered, the way you made someone feel will never be forgotten.

How to Handle Profanity

If you happen to be the one offended by someone's cursing, there a few civil ways to handle it.  This will depend on the situation and your relationship to the offender.

It's not usually too difficult to approach someone you know with your concern:

  • Don't react.  Assume a respectful voice and tone when you ask someone to stop using offensive language.
  • Give them the benefit of the doubt once or twice.  If they persist, say something like, "John, I'm uncomfortable with unkind words."
  • Depending on the time and place, find a private moment to approach the person.  Embarrassing someone isn't worth being right.

Something may have occurred that has caused an upset.  Approach the person with a helpful attitude and attempt to diffuse the situation.  As he calms down, you may make mention of his language, but be careful not to set him off again. 

If kindness doesn't work, whether you are face to face or on the phone, let him know that his use of profanity is not acceptable to you and won't solve the issue.  If it still continues, hang up or walk away.

In public places, it's easiest to handle offensive language by moving away from it.  Restaurants have staff that may be willing to intervene depending on the situation, but usually, any resolution will be up to you.  It's not advisable to approach and correct a stranger.  You might find yourself in an even more uncomfortable confrontation.

If You Are the Offender

Sometimes people “cuss” because they don’t know any better.  Or, if they do, they aren’t being mindful of their surroundings. 

Whether careless or mindless, we're probably all guilty. 

But when you know better, you do better.  Even the worst potty mouths can come clean!

If you decide to break your habit of using swear words, make a list of rules for yourself that help you stay within the boundary of language that doesn't detract from any first - or other - impression you want to make.

  • Never swear in public.  This includes work, school, church, restaurants, the park, or any other public place.
  • Never swear in your home if others are around.
  • Avoid name-calling. 

You can also find suggestions here to help with your commitment to speak less offensively.

Profanity is always provocative.  It offends, creates negative situations, and can escalate negativity.  Choose to be positive, and let your words reflect this.

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