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  • How The $#*! You Say Affects Your Brand

    It’s my turn to host girl’s night and my dining room and kitchen are buzzing with the sounds of my girlfriends’ laughter as we begin to open a bottle of red wine. “Is that a vase of money on your desk?” asks Victoria. “Yes, my name’s Adriana and I’m addicted to dollar slot machines. (We all chuckle.) That’s my swear jar; I’ve had it for years. I put $1 in anytime I say the F-bomb or the word stupid.”

    Given that we’re all professional women, and quite a lively bunch at that, it started a dynamic conversation about the effects cussing can have on your professional image, personal brand and job search.

    You are what you say

    Building your vocabulary can build your confidence. If you think of your language as a direct reflection on your personal brand and professional image, would you change anything? When’s the last time you let an F-bomb or Oh $#!* slip out in a client meeting, at a networking event or even an interview?

    Just last fall one of my clients received a job offer from a media company in N.Y. When I asked the recruiter what made the difference between him and the #2 candidate, he told me the other guy had been so casual during the interview he dropped 3 f-bombs and it turned them off.

    Stanford or stupid

    Unless you’ve branded yourself the next Howard Stern or plan to pull off a Justin Halpren “sh-t my dad says” Twitter success, the words that you speak are judged more harshly if they’re less refined. Does this mean that to be seen as professional and polished you need to be an Ivy Leaguer? Goodness No! It simply means to keep need to keep basement language (as my girlfriend Miranda calls it) in check.

    Cuss word creativity

    What do you say in lieu of your cuss words? In times of need, get creative or call mom – those are my mottos as least. Mom came up with the swear jar which certainly helps to curb the cussing. She also said women should always wear lipstick. Maybe she wants your words look prettier in the event of a slip up? That or she just really wants me to get married and is throwing in single gal advice any way possible.

    Clean up your vocabulary and personal brand by challenging yourself to think of creative synonyms to replace your favorite cuss words. Some of the replacements I’ve created are: toukas, malarkey, and fagezee (none of which passed the spell check).

    Shut the Front Door? Open your vocabulary, and hiring managers, clients and colleagues will be more likely to open the front door for you and your friendlier vocabulary.


    Adriana Llames is a veteran career coach and acclaimed author of Career Sudoku: 9 Ways to Win the Job Search Game, released with top book seller Amazon.com. She is creator of  “HR In-A-Box,” a Human Resources software product helping small businesses across America and a professional keynote speaker motivating and inspiring audiences with her focused programs on “9 Ways to Win the Job Search Game”, “Confessions of a Career Coach” and “Nice Girls End Up on Welfare.” For more information, visit www.adrianallames.com


    Adriana Llames is a master career coach and acclaimed author of "Career Sudoku: 9 Ways to Win the Job Search Game", released with top book seller Amazon.com. She is the chief engagement officer at adrianallames communications and a highly sought after keynote speaker motivating and inspiring audiences with her high energy, focused programs on personal branding, social media and networking. For more information, visit www.adrianallames.com

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    7 comments on “How The $#*! You Say Affects Your Brand
    1. avatar
      Yinka olaito says:

      Great piece Andraiana. Are you suggesting that one differentiates between friend to friend chat on social media and official talks in the same platform or social gathering?

    2. avatar

      Oooh Adriana… I’m guilty as charged. I’m not an f-bomb dropper, but I have been known to unleash a few other minor league choice words on my blog. Though it’s funny you should mention cuss word creativity.

      I left a comment on a business-related blog this weekend, and I used the word ‘poop-ishness.’ The owner thought it was an awesome word, and said she was going to borrow it. I got more attention using a fancy cuss word substitute, than using the real thing. Guess I need to stop my shenanigans and use a little creativity!

    3. avatar
      Greg Coyle says:

      Adriana– a very important point! Using swear words in a career setting is definitely not going to improve your professional image. In addition, people must remember that cursing online is also an extension of their personal image. Even though you use your Facebook for personal reasons, employers could possibly see your wall posts or photo comments. If you’re looking to enter the professional world or are already in it, you need to watch your language on all platforms. Your online brand has become an extension of your offline brand.

    4. avatar

      I don’t really cuss a lot in public, unless I’m really extremely vexed and frustrated. But on times that I feel slightly peeved, I came up with saying the word “burger” and it’s such a random thing to say on those certain situations, but it’s pretty effective.

    5. avatar

      Good topic, poorly handled. If you were serious you would have come up with a dozen replacements for common expressions you consider taboo.

      If you have some you can come on my show tomorrow to share them. That’s a dare. It’s time to woman up. Put some oomph into your simplistic preaching

    6. avatar

      Great article Adriana!

      I’m representing the Global Speakers Federation. I’d like to invite you to post this article on our website
      http://www.globalspeakers.net which will enable you to reach thousands or professional speakers who’ll love your topic!

      Drop me an e-mail if you’re interested.

      As a non-native speaker, I’d love to hear tips ‘how to validate my own new words’. To me, some words sound awesome, but then it appears that they already have a meaning or it’s immediately associated with concepts, I don’t like to be associated with.

    7. avatar
      Neil Reay says:

      Some recent articles have promoted the use of “strategic profanity.” I disagree strongly. Any manager who cannot show passion without profanity is sadly lacking in ideas, vocabulary and purpose, and is unable to convey a clear message. Take the profanity out of any typical rant, and there is not real message left. Profanity is an expression of emotion, but never of ideas. Profanity is never uplifting or empowering, but rather the opposite. The next time you hear someone swearing, ask yourself if they are showing that they are positive, in control and happy, or rather angry, frustrated and stuck in a situation. Profanity is for complaints, rants and losers.

      It is my experience that people who use profanity seldom take any action. Profanity is an indication that the person is frustrated, angry, lacks control over themselves and the situation, and they lack power. When President Obama says he is “looking for someone’s ass to kick,” it means he doesn’t know what else to do and is out of options. Profanity on a shop floor or in the military is commonly from those who have no say in what happens. Profanity is based in the frustration of inaction and fear rather than in positive action and confidence.

      The so-called “strategic use of profanity” is wrong as well. A person who doesn’t use profanity normally and suddenly uses it causes the listeners to focus on the profanity rather than the message. The so-called “shock value” is just shock – the speaker is angry or emotional, and therefore not rational; the person has no ideas or actions to convey, only emotion; and the leader is not in control, so the followers should fear both the situation and the speaker. Profanity is threatening, not engaging.

      It is always easier to “step down” to a lower level than to “pull up” another to a higher level of interaction and communication. Managers should focus on clear communications, honest assessment and positive action rather than emotional dumping. Leave profanity to the ignorant, the fearful and the indecisive.

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