Skip to content →

Tag: mood hoover

What do your expletives do for you?

Cat and butterful from WomEOS via FlickrAnyone or any thing that does not bring you alive is too small for you

So says David Whyte.

I was marveling this morning about a client who sucks the life out of us.  They are difficult to deal with.   They change their minds.  They are arrogant.  They are rude.  Goodwill rapidly spins into the black hole of lack of expectation.  If our despair was contained to our dealings with them, it might be OK.  But we rapidly feel tired and lack energy even for tasks we love.

Mood hoovers. . . I hadn’t heard that expression before I came to the UK.  As I pondered my mood, and wondered my options, I also wondered if mood hoovering isn’t a normal activity in UK.  Do you see where despair takes you?  In the blink of an eye, we are into the “personal, permanent and pervasive“.

Do we swear differently in different countries?

Then I pondered the nature of expletives in different countries.

Expletives in a multi-lingual coutry

I come from a country where two languages dominate the workplace.  As a first year student, our lecturers would deliberately expose us to cultural behaviors that might shock us.  Actually we had a civil war going on at the time, and they might deliberately say things that are so provocative, and often my first impulse was to dive under the desk for cover in case war broke out in the classroom too.

One of the things I learned was by accident.   The lecturer was demonstrating subliminal attention and its effect on action.  This is an important effect, so listen up.  But the results in a multi-cultural setting were quite funny.

He flashed up various words on what is called a tachistoscope.  A willing student stared down a tube and called out the words.

Up came an expletive, or taboo word, or swear word, and the “subject” would take markedly longer to call out the word.  It’s like having a test at the optician.  They would “report” that they hadn’t actually seen it.

Not so with expletives across the language line. We call out each others expletives just as fast as we call out ordinary words.

That wasn’t what the lecturer meant to demonstrate but hey, unwanted side effects are sometimes serendipitously useful.

Some expletives are harsh and aggressive

Getting back to expletives, my language group would use the harsh expletives of Europe.  But by the time these ugly words had crossed the language line they changed their meaning slightly, we got sentences like this quotation I received from a tradesman:

If I fuck it up, you pay me bugger all.

Well that was clear!  Actually quite charming in its sincerity and engagement and had not a hint of aggression.  I doubt he knew he used words that we regard as rude.

Some expletives are soft and including

Two cherished expletives that crossed the line to us were




I marvel at the softness of sound.  I marvel at the simple statement of “I am surprised”.  I like the gentle chiding of “you aren’t making sense” in the form of “this is disappointing me”.

I like the pulling oneself together in “Eish!”

I felt better when I tweeted, “Eisshhhhh!”

What do your expletives do for you?

What do your expletives do for you?

Do they make the situation worse?

Or do they encourage you to engage once more with a smile on your face, hope in your heart, curiosity in your questions, respect for others and a willingness to move on?

How do you swear “when you are at home?”

One Comment

Designers teach work psychologists 3 questions to ask about work or any plan or bossiness about people

Mood hoovering work

I am a work psychologist and we design work.  We are brought up on a diet of (ersatz) experiments and (dated) statistics.  That’s not all bad. We are good at operationalizing – taking an idea and saying “what exactly are we going to do“?  We find Google Analytics easy to understand.

But we become very bad at people.  We even joke that is why we become psychologists.  Because people mystify us.

So we set out to learn from people who are good with people.

Psychologists learn from designers

Here are three questions that were blogged as a summary of Bantjes  (see that training, pedantically precise!). If we are going to set up mock experiments and tiresome evaluations, I suggest we hold ourselves accountable to these.

Three questions to ask about work or any plan or bossiness about people

Does it bring joy?

Is there a sense of wonder?

Does it evoke curiosity?

Failed at the off

My rendition does none of these things.  I can feel the energy hoovered out of me.   So do look up Bantjes when the videos on TED Global 2010 come out.  And let’s put the fun back into life.  Being orderly is good.  But being dispiriting is not.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: