Go ahead. Say it. Drop the F-bomb.
Don’t feel bad if you blurt out “sh*t” when you miss the bus or “damn it” when you misplace important paperwork, or even “f***” when you stub your toe.
It’s time to stop apologizing for swearing. Quit giving dirty looks and yelling “you kiss your mother with that mouth?!” to those of us who say the dirty words.
It may come across as sudden that we’re comfortable with swearing. Once again, we owe a very special thanks to science for this one since it turns out, swearing has a number of psychological benefits.
The 5 Psychological Benefits of Swearing
#1 Swearing Reduces Pain and Makes You Stronger
WTF? Swearing is actually a type of coping mechanism that can make you feel stronger when used in moderation. Not only that, but swearing reduces the pain when we’re injured.
One study had participants submerge their hands into ice water. Those who repeated swear words during the experiment were able to keep their hand in the freezing cold water for longer, compared to those who didn’t swear.
Dr. Richard Stephens, lead psychologist on this study and an expert on the psychology of swearing, stated that
Swearing is a universal human linguistic phenomenon–meaning everybody does it.
#2 Swearing Wakes You Up
Tossing around a few swear words actually activates the “fight or flight” response in our brains. Either saying or hearing a swear word excites our brains, grabs our attention and readies us for what may follow.
#3 Swearing Improves Your Speech
Although unconventional, swearing can drastically improve your speech. Further, what you say actually sticks with the people listening. Swearing shows passion, it persuades people and is a surprising sign of a great vocabulary.
How many times have you worked hard to persuade a friend to do something, almost given up and muttered something like “damn it, just listen to me!” then had that friend actually follow your plea and hear you out? Throwing in a light swear word here and there shows your passion for whatever you may be talking about, and actually helps persuade the listener to do what you’re asking. Whether it be asking a favor for a friend or lecturing at a university, showing some feeling by swearing makes it more likely that your audience takes your message to heart.
Not only that, but a recent study found that people who know more swear words have stronger verbal abilities and vocabularies. Next time your mother tries to hush your swear words by telling you that it’s a sign of poor vocabulary choice, gently let her know that science says the opposite.
#4 Swearing Helps You Make Friends
Believe it or not, there’s a phenomenon called “social swearing”, and it actually promotes bonding. The intention is to bring friends together. Think about coworkers grabbing a few beers at the bar together after work, “shooting the sh*t” and bonding.
#5 Swearing Helps You Express Yourself
Swearing can be an important form of expression for many people; we see it as a way to get in touch with our emotions. Think of poetry, both written and spoken word, music, movies, any sort of media where the artist is expressing themselves–swear words are a common find.
Researcher Amy Zile conducted a study on the relationship between emotional arousal and swearing. She discovered that people swear “more colorfully” when they are in an extremely emotionally charged situation or state. In this state, people use swearing as a way to express themselves and how they’re feeling. In other words, swearing is an essential component to emotional language.
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of swearing, embrace it appropriately! Use your favorite swear words to express yourself, strengthen yourself mentally against pain or liven up a boring discussion. Don’t feel bad if your few “choice words” aren’t approved by the social norm. If we share these swearing benefits with the world, soon everyone will be lightly swearing “for their health”.
About Vanessa Van Edwards
Lead Investigator, Science of People
I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.
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