Cussing Like a Sailor Apparently Makes You More Friendly

Contrary to what your mother may have told you, swearing makes it easier for you to make friends and to appear more trustworthy. A new study finds that profanity might be your best ticket.

“Profanity refers to obscene language including taboo and swear words, which in regular social settings are considered inappropriate and in some situations unacceptable,” reads the study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science. The study argues that because profanity is most often used as an “expression of emotions such as anger, frustration, or surprise,” it is often viewed as “unfiltered genuine expression of emotions.” What that means is that it is typically viewed as being more honest than refrained and controlled expressions. That honesty tends to make you seem more believable. Additionally, because of the forcefulness equated with the use of profanity, people often take the statements more seriously.

The research was broken down into three different studies. In the first, the relationship between profanity and honesty was looked at using a lie scale. The second study examined whether use of profanity in online settings equated to an increase of honesty. The final study looked at the relationship between profanity rates and integrity. The results showed that participants in the first study that used profanity were more honest according to the lie scale. In the second study’s results, profanity was shown to be associated with more honest language patterns. Profane language use was positively related to integrity in the third study.

The study seems to indicate that using profanity makes you seem more honest and thus more friendly. But before you let loose on a profanity-laced tirade that would make even the hardest sailor blush, the study also reports that profanity should be used judiciously. “Profanity can sometimes be interpreted as antisocial, harmful, and abusive,” reports the study. So if you’re going to use it, you might want to heed to this counsel: “Profanity may also be seen as a positive if it does not inflict harm but acts as a reliever of stress or pain in a cathartic effect. Profane language can serve as a substitute for potentially more harmful forms of violence and can alert others to one’s own emotional state or the issues that one cares about deeply.”

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