Early in my speaking and management career, my mentor introduced me to this lesson. I learned it a few times the hard way and again in Toastmasters. Remember, speakers are leaders. A leader is constantly working to build trust and maintain credibility. I apply public speaking skills when I am engaged in strategic planning, change management, performance consulting, corporate training, etc.
Therefore, it is important to avoid controversy and keep a neutral stance when delivering a program. This contributes to a safe environment that allows participants to remain fully focused. Word choices require a level of deliberateness; otherwise, they may distract the audience by pulling their focus from the message.
Compulsory, unoriginal material that references bathroom topics, sexual topics, cultural stereotypes or any of those things that have been overused may often be met with a deadly hush. These are traditionally referred to as bedroom, bathroom and barnyard or the 3 B’s. These can cross the line for some and create a backlash you would prefer to avoid.
- BEDROOM: Keep it behind closed doors.
References to sexual activities or personal stories or jokes can create bias. They could evoke polarizing biases toward the speaker or the reverse, by potentially revealing a bias the speaker may have toward select audience members.
In fact, presenters should understand the scope of harassment law and the legal definition of harassment. Some speech within a presentation can be defined as workplace harassment if it is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile or abusive work environment for a reasonable person.
- BATHROOM: Keep it clean.
As a human species, we may feel psychologically and physically vulnerable in this space. This goes back thousands of years when concerned about predators; hence, the evolution to private bathroom of today.While the level of privacy may vary across cultures, discussing the outcomes with strangers is often met with discomfort in the western civilization since the Victorian era and prior. This is still true despite the medical community insisting we need to have more open dialogue in this area. The allusion is off putting to many people and may indicate a perceived lack of sensitivity and poor choice on the part of the presenter (or leader).
- BARNYARD: Watch the profanity.
The definition of profanity is the use of abusive, vulgar or irreverent language. Actually, Wikipedia adds rude and insulting to the definition.I found interesting research on the use of profanity among men and women to vary. In the initial August 2010 article in Psychology Today documented the use of profanity by men and women has increased significantly. The baseline study in 1996 the study revealed that men were 67 percent and women it was 33 percent. There was a significant increase in 2006, with 55 percent of men using profanity as compared to 45 percent of women.The study further included social media for 2016. Dr. Emre Güvendir, poses since curse words are often wielded in aggression, the variance in their usage is likely connected to overall differences in the way males and females process aggressive impulses. In the journal Language Sciences, he recounts several studies showing a greater volume in the orbitofrontal cortex of female brains—which suggest that the average woman’s brain is better built for moderating aggression than the average man’s brain.
The stage is larger and today may even effect bias perceptions before or after you arrive. What is considered acceptable or mildly profane in one culture or language usage may be considered highly offensive in another. Such irreverence in some instances could result in your death or threats such as one author experienced for violating what was considered holy by some. So it is important have the social awareness and to consider which words to avoid.
Leadership strategies today require this level of awareness. The modern audience is more sensitive and informed these days. Once offended, it is rare to regain their trust. Toastmasters International™ suggests avoiding language or topics best left in the “bathroom, bathroom, or bedroom.” Presenters are most successful using humor that lets people laugh at you and at your personal faults.
Bottom line… avoid all stereotypes.