Friday, September 30, 2011

Vocabulary Building Words: New Edition of “Words of the Month”

The latest edition of “Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, has been online since the middle of this month. The six featured words, all of which lie within the conversational vocabulary of America’s most articulate (as is the case with all of the words featured in my book, “The Articulate Professional-3rd Edition”):

1. schadenfreude
2. infantilize
3. jaundiced
4. mercurial
5. listless
6. apogee

Here are extracts from some of my favorite examples, all carefully designed to help you expand your vocabulary:

-- the extraordinary damage to Rupert Murdoch’s reputation as a result of the phone hacking scandal must have been a source of schadenfreude for millions of people

-- even though Nicole and I are always at loggerheads, I am truly saddened at this career setback she has suffered-- there is absolutely no schadenfreude at my end

-- the smile on my face this morning reflects my plain-for-all-to-see schadenfreude at the news that Jim’s unit is to be shut down.

-- during a speech at his Toastmasters club “Park Ten Talkers,” this author saying: the usage of the word schadenfreude, which was rarely spoken until the late 1990s, has increased dramatically

-- before I move to the next item on the agenda, here is some schadenfreude for you all: I’ve just been informed that …

-- a 2011 calendar from AXA Advisors has to be the most ridiculous I have ever received… here are three examples of the infantilizing pictures in it: a gleaming SUV with the name “Singal Edition,”…

-- nobody with 25 neurons in their brain will accept such an infantile explanation

-- one aspect of the Matthew Algeo interview that I resented was host Steve Inskeep’s infantilization of the author and thus us listeners as well

-- to accelerate your employees’ growth, cut down on the spoon-feeding--don’t infantilize them

-- in hotly contested elections, the intensity of the conflict sometimes infantilizing them, with each opponent stooping to name-calling

-- the infantile humor in some sitcoms; their exchange of insults sinking to infantile levels

-- several million more Americans are now looking at the Tea Party with a jaundiced eye

-- she has created quite a stir because of the jaundiced eye she cast upon the sales staff

-- the debt ceiling showdown in Congress has further jaundiced my view of that supposedly august institution

-- both warring nations inject falsehoods in textbooks to present their children with a jaundiced view of history

-- the Oscar-winning movie “Crash” is a realistic portrayal of a how a person’s jaundiced viewpoint about people from other races and cultures….

-- in the days following the S&P downgrade of U.S. credit rating, the Dow Jones was at its most mercurial in recent years

-- such mercurial actions do not bespeak of great leadership

-- she is one of our smartest employees; the problem is her output: it’s mercurial!

-- mercurial personality; mercurial temperament; mercurial nature; mercurial moods

-- George H.W. Bush discovering how mercurial a U.S. president’s popularity can be

-- he barely uttered a word during the entire meeting—he just sat sort of listlessly at the far end of the table

-- even when there is some really big news about a family member, my 92-year-old mother reacts listlessly

-- while presenting his nationally popular topic “Some Simple Verbal and Nonverbal Skills for Creating a Highly Favorable First Impression,” this author demonstrating the “three-pump-handshake” which engenders a far better impression than a handshake that is limp or listless

-- a highly favored team playing listlessly and going down in defeat to a mediocre group of rookies

-- a listless presentation or speech; somebody’s listless attitude or mood

-- images of flooded towns having a far lower “shock value” and therefore generating a listless response (by way of contributions) than pictures of earthquake stricken homes and buildings

-- the concentration of new wealth, which reached a peak just before the Great Depression, is at an apogee once again

-- if only more politicians could resist temptation and leave office at the apogee of their fame and reputation, as did President Nelson Mandela

-- a cosmetics line that is past its apogee; the Byzantine Empire reaching its apogee during the rule of Justinian

-- millions of innocent Soviet citizens being banished to labor camps during the 1930s—the apogee of Joseph Stalin’s three-decade-long reign of terror

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal

Public Speaking Tips: Strong, Evocative Words Are Often Wasted If Not Accompanied By Appropriate Nonverbals

When trying to influence an audience, the use of two or three fresh, strong, evocative, and out-of-the-ordinary words uttered back-to-back can be extremely effective (especially if the audience is familiar with the terms). Why? Because such an expression works like a one-two or a one-two-three punch. But much too often, public speakers fail to get the full mileage from their well chosen words because they are uttered blandly or very rapidly, unaccompanied by appropriate nonverbals. This is something I emphasize again and again while coaching executives, managers, and other professionals who have to make important presentations.

Take a look at the video clip below, featuring former Missouri Republican Party Chair Ann Wagner lambasting the then-party leader Michael Steele. Imagine how much more powerful, and searing, and impactful her remarks would have been had she uttered her carefully chosen words “steeped in mismanagement, distractions, and drama” (you can tell she is glancing at her notes as she utters them) with some pizzazz. For instance, a split-second pause after each of the three nouns (mismanagement, distractions, drama) would have allowed those words to sink in fully. And the injection of vocal variety as well as some facial and/or hand gestures would have endowed her words with much additional weight. Summing up, she could have easily accentuated that key sentence immeasurably.

An excellent example of a well crafted and potentially indelible expression coming to naught thanks to too rapid-fire an utterance. © Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal

How to Conquer a Verbal Tic, Such as the One Afflicting Mr. “Correct”

As mentioned in previous posts, the No. 1 reason why people do not expunge such an affliction from their system is that they do not even realize they are suffering from one. I bet Pete, the person who inspired the previous post, has no idea how tedious and irritating it is for a listener to put up with his unceasing use of the word “correct” (and unfailingly uttered with the same tonality) when responding to any question in the affirmative.

Two step solution.
Step 1: If you are trying to become a better communicator, especially one who is more pleasing to listen to, the first step is to occasionally ask a fellow employee or a family member to listen in to your phone or other conversations--at random and without giving you advance notice--and provide you with some feedback. Short of recording your conversations, asking others for a critique is probably the easiest and quickest way to determine if you have the case of a verbal virus of any sort.

Step 2: Once you’ve become aware of your disfluency (be it ahs and ums, you knows, constant use of redundant words such as basically and essentially, etc.), the next step is to make a conscious effort to rid yourself of those pesky utterances. For instance, put conspicuous reminders next to your telephone and on the office wall. Joining a Toastmasters club can be very helpful. BTW, another annoying verbal problem, and one that I find even in some well known talking heads, is the repetition of words in the middle of a sentence. Here is an example: “I have no doubt we will succeed if we continue to work hard and- and- and our budget does not get cut any further.”

For regular presenters, finding out whether your speech contains verbal tics is easy: before you begin, discreetly request one or two people in the audience to provide you with some feedback at the end.

© Copyright 2011 V.J. Singal

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Another Recent Case of Verbal Virus -- Meet Mr. "Correct"

In the past, I’ve written about people who suffer from such disfluencies as beginning almost every sentence they utter with the word “actually,” “basically,” and so on.

Well, the other day, I got a phone call from a young manager, probably in this mid-thirties, well educated and extremely intelligent, who was looking for an executive coach in connection with a presentation he was to make to a large audience. During that half-hour conversation, I noticed he had one glaring shortcoming: every question I put to him was answered with the word “correct” (that is, if he was replying in the affirmative). A couple of days later, we had a face-to-face get acquainted meeting—an opportunity I offer to every potential client located in the Greater Houston area. One of the many things I wanted to observe in this meeting, which was at a Starbucks, was whether the spate of “corrects” during the previous phone conversation was a result of his having a bad day or whether it was a pathological affliction. Well, this exec, let’s just call him John, did not disappoint. During the 45-minute conversation, I must have asked him dozens of questions relating to his background, his career aspirations, his present job, etc., most of which he replied in the affirmative and each time that was the case, the response was “correct.”

Not only is such an affliction extremely irritating to the listener, it also limits the speaker’s quality of expression. Imagine the vocal variety, varied facial expression, and other nonverbals he could have employed had he answered my questions with such alternative responses as: yes or yeah; absolutely; that’s right; sure thing; and of course, correct.

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal