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Your language reflects your professionalism It’s everywhere nowadays, and I mean everywhere. It’s even worked it way back into ancient times, if you believe modern day movies. In penetrating every nook and cranny, it has gone to places that it shouldn’t. It’s the F-word, and its siblings.

I first read a sampling of Don Quixote in elementary school, and the story fascinated me. He was the imagined and self-appointed savior of the world—in effect, a lunatic. Among his knightly deeds was warring with windmills, which he imagined to be giant hostile creatures. So I think I am careful to not allow myself to lapse into anything that may be a ‘Don Quixote complex.’ Maybe I am failing on this one: I would like to stem the global avalanche of F’ing.

Leadership in the Social Age: No ‘Off’ Switch Anymore

I watched a prominent Canadian politician deliver a nationally televised speech that left me about as unimpressed as I could be. I had always been on the fence about the individual—not any more. I am a strong believer in an unfettered democracy, one that routinely accommodates even the voices that make some of us uncomfortable. Yet, as I watched, I wondered how that person’s followers felt. ‘There goes my leader… I must applaud?’

As someone who tries to practice what I preach, I spend time reflecting. Over 10 years ago, I concluded that, for me, F-ing away, under any circumstance, was entirely useless and invariably counterproductive. So, I subjected myself to a radical transformation. I decided to cut the terminology out of my usage completely. Not just in public, but in private, and even more, in mind! That prominent individual reminded me that I was right in doing so.

My decision had no religious or similar overtones. It was, quite simply, a professional development action. I grew up listening to Richard Pryor’s ground-breaking comedy and I still enjoy it, but that language belongs there. I still enjoy the exchange in Pulp Fiction, between Travolta’s (Vincent Vega) and Harvey Keitel’s (Mr. Wolf) that ends in, “so pretty please, clean up the f-ing car!”

Recently, I expressed my perception of the general uselessness of term to someone, and the response was, “But it felt good to say it, didn’t it?” Therein lies the catch. It’s a cheap verbal thrill that we believe lends a sense of authority, machismo, can-do-ness, or whatever else we perceive ourselves to gain with its use. If the F-Word helps you to relieve stress, then use it until you can find a better substitute. That should not be hard, nor take long.

You’re Always ‘Showing’

As I looked back, those situations where I planned and executed well—at home or work—never had any occasion that required F’ing. In contrast, whenever I ended up tossing a few F’s around, not only had I failed to demonstrate winning form, but also, the F-ing never produced anything useful.

I can attest to the power—the intractability, the apparent unavoidability—of the F-word. Even as I try not to even think the term, it still makes a rare escape through my lips, in moments of stress or irritability. However, that happens only in private and always under my breath. This has been quite a rewarding cleansing process but there is no room for complacency.

The immense benefit I have gained is reflected in what I ask others. “When you start F-ing, what exactly is it that you wish to achieve from talking that way?” That probing can be uncomfortable. Many have difficulty expressing what the F-word is supposed to do for them. If you spend the time to consider it, you will find that pre-empting situations of F-word usage is a very good stimulant for constructive thinking and purposeful behaviour.

I confess that I have a de Niro bias. Robert de Niro F-bombing the NYU Tisch School of the Arts 2015 graduates was, at best, right on the edge, and admittedly questionable, but it carried a serious and relevant message. Our Canadian leader’s F-bombing, not so much. I wish I could have headed that person off, after all, Canada deserves better.