How to Use Your Favorite 4-Letter Word and Make a Positive Difference 


Summary: The world has changed, and more freedom of speech exists. However, freedom has a downside. The big question is how to use that freedom productively rather than hurt and hinder relationships.  

Dear Dr. Sylvia, 

Am I alone in using strong words to help calm me down when I am upset? 

I think not. 

However, I am sure that using too many four-letter angry words eventually hurts and hinder progress in relationships. Do you agree? 

And yet, a few strong and spicy words are being bandied about more and more these days. 

For example, I recently watched Julia Roberts and Sean Penn in the powerful series Gaslit, about Watergate.  

That saga put the focus on John, and Martha Mitchell is riveting.  

I started to count the number of times people used the word “F#ck.”  I had to stop counting because it was getting in the way of just watching the drama unfold.  

Careful of the tale you tell; that is the spell! 

Therefore, I said “f#ck it” out loud and permitted myself to watch what happened behind closed doors during the Nixon administration years ago.  

It is like being in the room where it happened! The end of the Nixon administration crashed, and Martha Mitchell was considered one of the early whistleblowers. 

Now, I am asking myself if we will hear those exact four-letter words repeatedly as we watch the truths from this time of Trump? 

All I want to say is, “what the f#ck.” 

Leaders must be careful about how they use negative language. 

Here is my dilemma. As a leader, I want to make a positive impact and help my direct reports grow. 

Do people at work relate better to “spicy” language? Is it better to be more polite and gracious? 

The world seems to favor offensive language. Is being polite out of vogue? 

For example, I am curious to know your thoughts about proper language. And how do expletives help or hinder at work? Also, at home? 

I look forward to hearing what you think is appropriate. 


What the F#ck 

Dear WTF, 

Learning what words to use and why in any given situation can help you climb the ladder of success. 

Your chosen words can help you fly high or bring you down low. While many four-letter words are colorful expletives and fun to speak or hear, what is the real purpose of using them in a business environment or even at home? 

The question is, why do so many of us love the words that are like exclamation points? 

Swear words are merely emotions spoken out loud. 

Interesting fact: As far as our brains are concerned, swear words aren’t even words. Think of them as concentrated lumps of emotion. They are even stored in a completely different part of the brain from every other word we know.  

Swearing is often cathartic. It frees us from the feelings of anger and frustration that stay inside and allows us to express our upset. 

Often people swear to ease emotional pain. Swearing can diminish the hurt and shame, at least for the moment, and make you feel better. Being rejected activates the same area in the brain associated with physical pain. 

Swearing may work short-term but not over the long haul. 

Another reason for swearing is that many of us are so loyal to another that we are willing to take the bullet for them. Then we speak their unspeakable for them. 

Thus, you say what they are thinking loud and dramatically.  

In this instance, you get the wagging finger pointing at you, and the one who is mad and embarrassed can stand in the background and nod their head. 

It can also be used as a surprise tactic.  

For example, it says, “I’m here, and you better pay attention to me.” 

Effective leadership must learn when to shout out upset and stay silent. 

How do we choose what words and when? It used to be that words were chosen depending on the group we would be with and our relationship in that group.  

There is locker room talk as well as powder room talk. The tendency is to be less potty-mouthed in mixed companies. At least, till recently, that was the way we were trained. 

Do you remember when then-candidate Donald Trump talked about female private parts like a favored small animal (no, not a dog, another soft and furry animal)? 

Interestingly, people who swear more are shown on personality tests to score higher on extroversion, hostility, and being a super achiever. 

Swearing knows no social boundaries.  

It’s universal and gender neutral. 

What four-letter words can replace the f-you and d-headways of responding. 

It’s simple. When you are mad as heck, take some deep breaths and wait.  

Use my 5-second breath method to stop before you speak. 

Then do what I call a pattern interrupt. 

There are positive four-letter words to lead your team forward. 

Consider the other person who hears you—telling them what a s**t they are, does what? It only instills more anger and upset. Find some other four-letter words that can have a positive effect on the situation. 

One of the best words I know is hope. It conjures up the images of possibilities of a better way. Even when things seem impossible, saying that you hope there is a better way will often stop someone in their tracks to reconsider the negatives and maybe help (another great word) the situation. 

The words good, like, feel, and yes, that much-overused word, love, in the proper context can soothe even the most savage and annoying person. 

When I am in an intense coaching session with a client, I often ask them to respond with a four-letter word. They respond with a “huh” until I say, “please tell me how you “feel.” Now, that is a four-letter word worth discussing. 

Leaders use words to keep future possibilities front and center. 

I’d love to hear what your favorite four-letter words are that can help make situations flow (ah, another great word). 

Maybe we can change the world one four-letter word at a time. 

Think about it, love, hope, help, care is also four letters. What others can you add? 

Here’s to your success, 


P.S. If you would like a  complimentary copy of my e-book Gender Speak, about how men and women communicate differently, please email me at, and it’s a gift for you. 

Creative Energy Options

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options