Are You Being Vulgar?

February 22, 2015
Mary Jane Copps

“A lack of compassion can be as vulgar as an excess of tears.”

Dame Maggie Smith, as Dowager Countess of Grantham, Downton Abbey

Among the many “zingers” that Dame Maggie Smith gets to deliver on Downton Abbey, this one captured my full attention. It speaks directly to one of our most important communication skills on the phone – and in life.

Compassion is our ability to think and feel beyond ourselves; to set aside our opinions, needs and situation to focus on that of  the other – our customer, our prospect. Compassion can also be described as empathy, fellow feeling, care, concern, sensitivity, warmth, kindness and humanity.

The world vulgar (which is not a word we encounter very often today) means “a lack of perception” or “common behaviour”  or  “offensive”.

When we aren’t compassionate about our customers’ experience of our company and the service we provide, or about our prospects’ busy schedules and their need for us to be clear and precise, we illustrate our inability to understand their needs. Instead of delivering what is excellent or unique, we deliver what is common, what is easily available from everyone else. And, in some cases, our lack of compassion offends our audience, sending them to our competition or in search of a whole new way of getting what they need.

Excellent communication includes compassion. When you take the time to learn more about your customers and prospects, and respond to what you learn, they will experience your warmth and care. The service you provide will be experienced as both excellent and unique. Customers and prospects will be inspired to stay connected with you – and they’ll want share their experience with others.

Enjoy your PhoneWork everyone!



  1. Paul Mombourquette says:

    Love this edition to your blog, and that too was a favourite line of of mine from that episode. I love that I continue to learn from your experience. Keep sharing!

    • The Phone Lady says:

      Thank you, Paul. So fun to know that someone else is catching the same dialogue on Downton. I’m so sorry the season is coming to an end next week. Let me know if there are any other lines you think I can work with!

  2. Linda Daley says:

    Love this and it applies to email communication, too!

  3. Natalie Wilson says:

    This blog is yummy on so many levels.

    So very awesome that you picked out that line from Downton Abbey. After I heard it I repeated to myself and believe it or not, you came to my mind. I thought , “What would Mary Jane think about that line” and here it is. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


    • The Phone Lady says:

      This is so fun, Natalie. I’m honoured that you thought of me when you heard that line! I appreciate that you took the time to share this story with everyone.

  4. Duane Lowe says:

    So glad you picked up on that latest Dowager zinger. It was an ‘A-HUH’ moment for me the instant it came out of her mouth! North Americans seem to have a different use for the word vulgar if they use it at all. I have British friends who still use the word and it always captures my attention! Thanks much for your thoughts on it, another “A-HUH for me!

    • The Phone Lady says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Duane. I’m interested in the fact that the word is still used in Britain. When I looked up it’s etymology I was surprised to learn its true meaning. Also glad to know your business is doing well. Congrats!

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