Pygmalion was a sculptor in Greek mythology who fell in love with a statue he had carved. The ivory statue was transformed into a human being by the goddess Athena to be Pygmalion's wife.
The award winning Broadway play and film, "My Fair Lady," was based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. In "My Fair Lady," a girl from the gutter is transformed into a princess by Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics. This transformation was not magic. It was a transformation of how she saw herself and others saw her based on the way she spoke. As professor Henry Higgins sings, "An Englishman's way of speaking absolutely classifies him."
Whether we like it or not, the same is true today. When you begin to speak, you are classifying yourself, creating your own label. Your speech is your personal advertisement of how you want others to see you. It might not be totally accurate but it is the billboard of yourself that you have erected.
Even in our society where there seems to be nothing sacred and where moral boundaries are quickly eroding, crude and vulgar language is still a sign of who you are. Regardless of your title, profanity damages your authority and reputation.
If it takes profanity to make your point, then you are unable to express yourself adequately. If you don't have a feeble mind, then you are using profanity because you lack the cultural, legal or charismatic authority to persuade others.
The following are five legitimate reasons why the use of crude or vulgar language by bosses, parents, coaches, foremen, etc. degrades your leadership.
1. Crudeness is often associated the unlearned and uncultured
You might have many advanced degrees but when you use profanity, you are classified with those who speak as if a swear word is the only adjective they know. Some say that profanity is normal language for those in certain types of jobs. If you aspire to be more that "just one of the boys," speak like a man or woman of distinction.
2. Using filthy language shows a lack of respect for oneself and all who are within earshot.
It makes others uncomfortable to be subjected to such a display of boorishness. People try to protect their children from profanity because they desire to protect their children's innocence and virtue. Virtue in adults is just as valuable and no one deserves to be assaulted with bad language.
Otherwise dignified people will launch into profanity when they are angry. In the workplace, this type of behavior could be cause for termination for an employee, or a lawsuit if it is a boss who is creating a hostile work environment. Such aggressive behavior is not motivating at work, on the ball field or in the home.
4. Profanity is not the sign of someone who is in control of him/her self
It is juvenile and it is what juveniles do to show that they do not have to follow rules. One of my favorite shows is "The Profit," with Marcus Lemonis. Mr. Lemonis shows his remarkable talent helping businesses to succeed using his formula of "People, Process and Product." My only criticism of his method is that when he is in a confrontational situation, he reverts to the use of profanity to make his point. This is not a good process to use with people to sell a product. Self-control is always the best way to deal with others.
5. Taking the name of God in vain is offensive to God and others who worship Him
It is obvious that Americans are not very concerned about offending God. Even though many believe in the Ten Commandments, they ignore the commandment that prohibits taking the name of the Lord in vain. In today's society, no one would use the N-word in polite society but using the name of God in vain is as commonplace as saying "lettuce." Let me be very clear, taking the name of God is vain is offensive to God and to those who worship Him.
The way you speak classifies you. By elevating your language and avoiding profanity, you transform yourself as a boss, a parent, a coach or a foreman. You will have more respect for yourself and those you lead will have more respect for you. You label yourself as a better person.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Roger Allred's blog. It has been republished here with permission.
Roger and his wife Sue have nine children and 21 grandchildren, so far. He has worked in many different jobs and in many different positions including a COO of a health care company, a teacher, the CFO of a feed mill, a CPA and the CEO of a power plant. In 2011, he received a heart transplant. In 2012, he and his wife hiked 60 miles in 6 days and summited Mt. Whitney to celebrate their 60th birthdays and the first anniversary of Roger's heart transplant. Roger currently works as a management consultant.