I was recently asked whether it would be appropriate for a person to curse in a mediation. I had to think back and wonder if I had cursed in a mediation, and I realized, that although I don’t normally curse, I have cursed a few times in mediations. So I thought I would explain why cursing in a mediation, or for that matter other circumstances, can be an important communication tool.
First, in any mediation, it is important that you try to create bonds and relationships with the clients. It is important for several reasons, but one of the most important reasons, is that a bond and relationship can create trust. Trust and credibility of a mediator are some of the most powerful tools in helping the parties come to a resolution. Sometimes, you will get clients that use profanities themselves. By judiciously using profanity in the mediation, you will have a greater chance of connecting with that client. Generally, people like and trust others that are similar to themselves. “Think of curse words as the verbal equivalent of a casual after-hours beer,” says Robert Sutton, Ph.D at Stanford.
Second, profanity can be acceptable and powerful when making a point. “Cursing accentuates emotion in ways that socially acceptable language does not, says Sutton, Ph.D. “Loaded words carry more weight in social situations.” I recall one time when a client had used profanity during the mediation. The client was complaining that the proposed settlement was unfair. At that time, I also agreed that it was unfair, but was probably the best that she could do and I used a profanity to highlight the unfairness of the deal. In that one moment, she knew that I understood and that it was o.k. to resolve the case. In some sense, the use of that one profanity was like a picture — it was worth a thousand words.
So if the time is right, and it feels right, don’t Fu%$ing worry about it, and let the Sh$t happen!