Saturday, July 31, 2010

Nonverbal Communication Skills: Hand Gestures That Are Valueless and Diminish One's Presentation & Stature

It is common to see a communicator using hand gestures that do absolutely nothing to emphasize or accentuate his or her points and instead, as is often the case, even weaken or diminish that person’s stature. A case in point: in the video clip below, you’ll see Ed Rollins, one of America’s most respected political analysts and consultants, using his hands in a sort of robotic, automaton-like manner--he clasps and unclasps them more than 10 times within just 28 seconds. Such hand gestures, which I call "reflexive" and "knee-jerk" (because they result when a speaker loses control of his or her hands and which come about as a natural reaction to the stresses produced within the body when a person is trying to articulate something at a key moment) do nothing to strengthen one's utterance or enhance one's personality. In fact, they can be very distracting, even ludicrous!

Video clip of Ed Rollins

My next post will feature a video clip of a top executive displaying exemplary use of the hands--a style that every professional (male or female) should strive to emulate.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Enhancing Your Vocabulary: New Edition of “Words of the Month”

The latest edition of “Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enhancement feature, has been online since the end of last month. Among the featured words, all of which lie within the conversational vocabulary of America’s most articulate:

1. recondite – to describe something that is extremely difficult to fathom or understand, and therefore beyond the comprehension of someone with an ordinary mind.
comment: This word is a perfect synonym for abstruse. A good example of something that is recondite and frequently in the news: derivatives, the financial instruments many blame for accentuating the global financial crisis.

2. moribund – a term for something that is nearing death--something that is showing no activity or progress, or is devoid of vitality.
comment: The housing market in some regions of the nation continues to be moribund, as is the Middle East peace process.

3. aphorism – a term for a concise and often profound statement of a principle--a terse and cogent formulation of a general truth or shrewd observation.
comment: A good synonym for adage. One of the reasons why Benjamin Franklin continues to be remembered fondly is the many simple aphorisms he handed down to us, such as “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

4. Svengali – a strong word to describe someone who manipulates or completely dominates another, especially for an evil or wicked purpose.
comment: It’s now more than three years since Dmitry Medvedev became president of Russia, but some Russia watchers continue to insist that the real political power in that nation is in the hands of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and that Putin is Medvedev’s Svengali.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Handshake: According to Recent Survey, Two Thirds of Us Display Diffidence, or a Lack of Confidence, When Shaking Hands

Reportedly, General Motors recently researched the handshake -- yes, researched it! -- to teach Chevrolet dealers how to do it correctly.

What a waste of time and effort, you might exclaim, considering that shaking hands is an activity all of us professionals engage in all the time. It is something we do quite naturally and reflexively, and so take for granted.

It turns out that nearly two-thirds of us display a lack of confidence when shaking hands, as per a recent survey cited on American Public Media’s “Marketplace” this morning. And why is that important for you and me? Because, as the “Marketplace” report points out, when you are meeting someone for the first time--say, during a job interview or sales call--the potential hirer, customer, or client is making instantaneous or snap judgments about your trustworthiness, your personality, your nervousness, and so on. In other words, the consequences of having an “unconfident” handshake and thus displaying diffidence when you meet someone for the first time can turn out to be very negative for you because they can affect the outcome of that interview or sales call.

Solution: The “Marketplace” piece goes on to make several suggestions and lists the various “ingredients” or components for the perfect handshake, but here are their three most significant and worthwhile tips:
(i) go for a complete and full grip, not the limp and almost half-hearted handshake I myself have often engaged in until now
(ii) shake or “pump” three times, which is why I now refer to the perfect handshake with the moniker “The 3-Pump Handshake”
(iii) smile with both your eyes and mouth and “let that smile fade slowly.”

Click here to listen/ read the report:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Men's Attire: Wearing an Exactly Matching Tie and Pocket Handkerchief Is Not a Good Idea!

Click on the short video clip below. Because Mr. Tim Tebeila--a highly successful South African industrialist featured earlier this year on PBS--is donning a tie and pocket square (or pocket hanky) that match exactly, the “center of gravity” of his visage falls sharply--to some level below the neck! In other words, the subject’s tie-pocket hanky combination is so conspicuous that it has become the dominant element in his overall appearance, and his face--which is what ultimately should attract the observer's eye--retreats into the background, almost falling off the canvas. Bottom line: If the tie and pocket hanky are of identical color(s), the combination will almost always outshine and overwhelm the wearer’s face and should be verboten. In his latest book, Alan Flusser, one of America’s foremost designers of men’s clothing, writes: “Wearing a matching handkerchief and necktie is a sure sign of an unsophisticated dresser.” Yet, in their show windows, several (misguided) retailers of men’s clothes in many a downtown, including Manhattan, continue to deck the suits with exactly matching ties and pocket squares. When will they learn?

Video clip illustrating a matching tie and pocket hanky

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Contagion of Two Adjectives—“Narcissistic” and “Self-Aggrandizing”—Triggered by LeBron James’s Media Event on Thursday Night

In the brouhaha following LeBron James’s decision and the way he let that decision be known to Cleveland and the rest of the world, two words have been on every critic’s lips: “narcissistic” and, to a lesser extent, “self-aggrandizing.” In fact, since the Thursday night sensation, I’ve seen many a media interview during which the guest--some noted sportscaster or the other--has used narcissistic as his only term of opprobrium and that too several times within just a few minutes. So, for talking heads and others who want to vent strong criticism of the way James handled his highly anticipated announcement, here are about a dozen other terms--in the order of mildest to the harshest--that could help break the annoying monotony of “narcissistic” and “self-aggrandizing” and thus quash this verbal contagion:

self-glorifying; self-centered; vain; egocentric; distasteful; tawdry;
egotistical; odious; conceited; egomaniacal; megalomaniacal; ignoble.