Sunday, December 9, 2012

New Seminar/ Coaching Topic for Executives and Managers who have Foreign-born Employees

At the urging of some of my client firms, including Technip, I have developed the following new topic: 

For those who manage foreign-born employees:
(i) How to "connect" and establish a stronger bond with your foreign-borns. 
(ii) Strategies and tactics to help enhance the communication effectiveness of those foreign-born employees.      

Thus, to help increase productivity and strengthen the esprit de corps within organizations that comprise one or more foreign-born employees, I now offer the following topics by way of seminars and one-on-one coaching:
A. the one mentioned above, and
B. For foreign-borns:
(i) How to "connect" and engage with the typical American professional. 
(ii) Strategies and tactics to compensate for the loss in communication effectiveness that occurs because of an accent.

The topics at B were very well received at one of Shell Oil’s annual events for employees of Asian origin.

Email me or call me at 281-463-2500 if you or your organization needs help. I will be delighted to send a proposal.

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal

Friday, November 30, 2012

Mitt, the Correct Pronunciation of “Tumult” is NOT "TUM-ult"

First, my customary declaration for posts on “mispronounced words”: The objective is NOT to denigrate or ridicule someone. Instead, I feature such posts on the theory that if a highly educated person is mispronouncing a particular word, there is an extremely high probability that at least a few of my blog readers are making the same error.

Now, click on the 15-second video clip below, excerpted from a broadcast of the third and final presidential debate, during which Mitt Romney used the word "tumult" several times when referring to the situation in the Middle East. Each time, he pronounced it as [TUM-ult], meaning that his first syllable seemed to rhyme either with “sum”/ “hum”/ “bum” etc. or with the first syllable in the word “tumultuous.” Wrong!

The two correct pronunciations of tumult are: [TYOO-mult] and [TOO-mult], with the "OO" pronouned as in "boot" and not as in "book."

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal

Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something

Here are some recent examples of articulate Americans using a vivid, evocative expression to emphasize something--examples which, I hope, will inspire the rest of us into similarly imaginative use of the language, especially when we are trying to break through the clutter.

  • Referring to the strong “Cyber Monday” sales earlier this week, Marshal Cohen, a retail analyst with the NPD Group, telling PBS’s NBR: “…every year we keep saying more and more consumers are shopping online, both the younger consumer which was born with a computer in their crib—they are very comfortable doing it—and the older generation is also…” 

  • Referring to Joe Biden’s “antics--his interjections, sighs, and quips…” during last month’s vice presidential debate, John Dickerson of Slate magazine saying: “At times his (Biden’s) treatment of Ryan was so dismissive, he seemed only a few threads of restraint from reaching across the table and patting Ryan on the head.” Really humorous!

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Male Attire: First Selecting an Appropriate Tie and then Anchoring the Rest of the Attire Around It

Republican Sen. Bob Corker is much in the news these days because of his leadership role in helping fashion a solution to the so-called “fiscal cliff.” [In fact, he was interviewed just this afternoon on NPR.]  Well, did you know that he is also a sharp dresser, that he knows a thing or two about what sort of clothes will sharply enhance his appearance—specifically, his facial glow? Just click on the video clip below (taken from a recent segment of PBS Newshour, my favorite news program) and see for yourself.

Analysis:  In the case of people whose hair is of a light color, one easy and really effective way to heighten their facial glow is to first select a tie that matches the color of the hair and then anchor everything else--jacket and shirt--around it, making sure that the contrast below the neck is of about the same intensity as the contrast above the neck. (I am referring to the “the principle of matching contrasts,” something I never fail to mention in my seminars on “Some Simple Verbal and Nonverbal Skills for Creating a Highly Favorable First Impression” and which is also discussed in previous blog posts.) In the clip below, you can see that Senator Corker has done exactly that, picking a tie whose color matches his silver gray hair. Exemplary!

Note that while donning the same tie and dark jacket, had Sen. Corker worn a dark shirt, the extremely high contrast level of the attire would have overwhelmed the contrast above the neck, thus eclipsing the face.
© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal


Sunday, November 25, 2012

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

The latest edition of Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, has been online for about a week. 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. blandishment
2. despotic
3. denouement
4. temerity
5. prowess
6. conundrum

Here are extracts from some of my favorite examples, all carefully designed to help you implant the word into your conversational vocabulary and use it with confidence:


-- highly credentialed students at top business schools being subjected to all sorts of blandishments from major consulting firms

-- ever since the collapse of Vioxx, I’ve been very cynical of the blandishments contained in all the slick commercials that dominate prime-time TV

-- the young Wisconsinite was unmoved by the pleadings and blandishments of his parents to come home and run the family farm; two rivals for the club presidency showering blandishments on undecided members

-- succumbing to the blandishments in an attractive brochure; not buying into the blandishments of the latest “get rich quick” scheme being promoted on a local TV channel

-- Karen is a math genius and enjoys working in the derivatives department where math skills reign supreme. No amount of sweet talk or any of the usual blandishments such as offers of a higher salary or a juicy bonus will get her to leave derivatives and come work for you.


-- referring to such U.S. actions as the invasion of Iraq, secret military action deep inside Pakistan to eliminate bin Laden, and the relentless drone strikes in NW Pakistan, some critics saying that “the U.S. is acting despotically

-- our new department manager Sandra comes across as a bit despotic, the way she demands total obedience from everyone

-- during manager meetings, Joe held almost despotic sway, thanks to his close ties with the CEO

-- the fate of those animals that have the misfortune of wandering onto the new 85-miles per hour highway between Austin and San Antonio is one more example of man’s despotic attitude toward wildlife

-- the despotic Miranda Priestly in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada”; Joseph Stalin, the Nazi Party, and Idi Amin being among the many rulers and organizations whose names are synonymous with despotism; following the attempted killing of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, Pakistanis protesting the Taliban’s “despotic agenda

-- talking about J. Edgar Hoover, author Ron Kessler telling CBS Sunday Morning “being as powerful as he was, he thought he was a god… as time went on, he became a despot

(Note that the last syllable is nasalized and thus rhymes with the last syllable in "rapprochement")

-- during the Cuban Missile Crisis, our heads were filled with thoughts of the unimaginably horrendous denouement that was likely if either leader (JFK or Khrushchev) were to take an escalatory step, such as….

-- I am anxious to see the upshot, the denouement of it all—will either of the two execs resign, or be fired?

-- all the execs, managers, and other employees eagerly awaiting the denouement—the go or no-go decision by the board of directors

-- in the 1941 Alfred Hitchcock movie “Suspicion,” the startling denouement, when the Cary Grant character is suddenly transformed into …., leaving this author disgusted, even cheated

-- in soccer, the dramatic denouement of many a World Cup match, thanks to the nail-biting series of penalty kicks…


-- the often-broadcast video clip from a 1988 vice presidential debate showing Democratic VP nominee Lloyd Bentsen chiding his Republican counterpart Dan Quayle for the latter’s temerity in comparing himself to the late John F. Kennedy

-- our colleague Robert is the only one around here who has the temerity to question execs on some of the assumptions in their presentations

-- everyone was surprised when brand manager Marian had the temerity to say during her presentation that she owes her winning strategies to Mr. Smith (who, last year, left the company in disgrace)

-- this author having the temerity to describe this blog as being second to none in giving professionals new ideas on how to be more impactful while participating in a meeting or while delivering a presentation

-- each year, several ambitious but inexperienced climbers who were thirsting to add Mt. Everest to their list of conquests in life paying for their temerity dearly

-- during the early years of my career, I was brash and often lost my temper, once even speaking angrily to my boss—that temerity cost me heavily

-- the stirring opening scene  in the 1982 movie “Gandhi,” during which the freshly minted attorney is physically thrown from a train in the middle of nowhere because he, a “colored” person, had the temerity to sit in a first-class compartment


-- whenever you burrow into the circumstances that earned someone the august Medal of Honor, you instantly realize that the serviceman’s actions were the very definition of martial prowess

-- they lack selling prowess; somebody’s growing prowess in producing catchy ads; the retailing prowess of Wal-Mart; the legendary Peter Lynch, who became famous for his stock picking prowess

-- Apple Computer’s unrivaled prowess when it comes to product innovation; GE execs’ reputed prowess in managing large organizations

-- the image of Toyota, which had become synonymous with automobile design and manufacturing prowess, taking a hit of late because of massive product recalls


-- a major conundrum facing Western democracies today: how to effectively surveil all those who are likely sympathizers of al Qaeda without grotesquely profiling or seriously infringing upon the constitutional rights of entire Muslim communities

-- let me tell you about just one of my many conundrums….

-- the challenging conundrum faced by many first-time job seekers: they cannot find employment in their chosen professions without relevant experience, and they cannot acquire such experience without first getting a job in that field;  the current Israeli-Palestinian conundrum

-- a government minister in an African nation saying: “One issue that is making me lie awake at night is actually a moral conundrum: whether or not to sanction a new road that will improve economic conditions in a very impoverished region but which will also lead to the destruction of wildlife habitat”

-- Paul Thompson of Purdue citing the following as an example of a “real philosophical conundrum” in the matter of gene implanting: “Supposing we could produce a strain of chickens that are blind and therefore don’t mind being crowded together. Would that be permissible on animal welfare grounds?”

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal

Thursday, November 8, 2012

One of the Most Articulate In the Land: David Darst of Morgan Stanley

If you are looking for someone to inspire you into becoming a superior communicator, then David Darst, Morgan Stanley’s chief investment strategist, is one such person. Unquestionably, he belongs to the pantheon of the most articulate Americans.

Click on the 3-minute video clip below (taken from a recent edition of “Consuelo Mack WealthTrack,” one of my favorite programs on television) and watch how, using a variety of verbal and nonverbal skills, Mr. Darst makes an impassioned and persuasive case regarding Wall Street--that we should not lose faith in the financial markets, notwithstanding the recent financial crisis. Not in at least the past three or four years have I come across anyone new whose communication style is so extraordinarily effective and gripping, particularly someone who can spontaneously come up with a stream of brilliant analogies to emphasize his point.

Not surprisingly, I’ve decided to give Mr. Darst the equivalent of my personal "medal of honor" by including him in the select few Americans named in the welcome paragraph on my website’s homepage as being “enormously successful communicators.”

P.S. I would urge you to watch the clip more than once: As I say at the beginning of this post, David Darst’s engaging style is bound to inspire you to further invigorate and expand your communication skills. To remind you of the Lee Iacocca quote on my home page, “The ability to communicate is everything.”  

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Timeless High-Impact Verbal Techniques: In the 3rd Obama-Romney Debate, Each Candidate’s Most Talked-about Rebuttal or Parry Employed One Such Skill

Immediately after the last presidential debate between Obama and Romney--the one on Monday, Oct. 22, in Florida--one rebuttal from each candidate instantly became airborne. And that was no surprise to me because each of those two parries employed one of the simple but powerful verbal techniques that are standard fare among highly effective communicators. Nor should the cogency of those two rebuttals have been a surprise to anyone who has attended my flagship seminar “Power of the Spoken Word & Techniques to Communicate with Impact and Sway.”

  • Obama’s highly effective line: Responding to Romney’s contention that our navy is weak because the number of ships is fewer than what it was a hundred years ago, the president said: “We also have fewer horses and bayonets!” In other words, he used an analogy--one of the half dozen or so most effective verbal techniques to emphasize a point--to assert that the strike power of a single modern-day weapon can easily overwhelm a sea of 100-year-old weaponry.

  • Romney’s highly effective line: More than once, when responding to Obama’s criticism of the Republican nominee’s stand (or flip-flops) on an issue, the latter began: “There is no point attacking me…” Why was this choice of words so effective in parrying Obama’s criticism, why did it resonate so wildly with Romney supporters? Because “attack” is a negative word, and telling someone to their face that they are “attacking” you immediately disarms that person, puts them on the defensive. Users of my book The Articulate Professional (3rd Edition) know that I have a whole chapter (Category V) featuring words employed by smart communicators to disarm and neutralize their critics and detractors (words such as denigrate, aspersion, reflexive, foist, puffery, apologist, nostrum, meretricious.).

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How to Introduce a Speaker: A Sample of an Under-Two-Minute Intro that Stirs the Audience by Embodying the Five Attributes Cited in the Previous Post

Reference the previous post listing my five “critical ingredients” of a speaker introduction that is impactful and productive, one that instantly builds anticipation and enthusiasm in the audience. Here is an introduction I drafted two weeks ago for one of my executive coaching clients who was to deliver the keynote to an audience of about a thousand people at a transportation industry conference. Notice that my draft below pretty much embodies the five items listed in the post of last Sunday.

[Note 1: Names, numbers, and other facts cited in the intro have been changed to preserve anonymity.]
[Note 2: Words that should be emphasized--by the use of appropriate nonverbals--are in bold.]

“Our speaker today, Jim Smith, is the owner of a freight services firm, The ABC Co., based in Houston. Since acquiring ABC six years ago, he has expanded (or grown) it over 400%, dramatically boosting the sales volume from $10 million in 2006 to over $50 million today. And he has done this despite the Great Recession of the intervening years, and despite the painfully high fuel prices.

Jim has accomplished this extraordinary feat by transforming The ABC Co. -- by instituting an entirely new culture! After settling on "a sharply enhanced customer experience" as his #1 goal, Jim went about assembling an all new regimen at ABC--a regimen that incorporates... (list of five or six business parameters most pertinent to freight services).

Not surprisingly, Jim has won numerous awards in the last couple of years. Among the more notable ones: Texas Business Journal’s “Houston-Galveston's Fastest 100 Growing Companies” for 2011 and 2012; Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 finalist; and ....

A bit about Jim's background: he hails from the great state of Minnesota, and began his professional career as an attorney after receiving a BA from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from Columbia. He is married and has two children, both of whom are school teachers. While talking to Jim, I've gathered that he owes a big part of his leadership and management qualities to the skills and perspectives he honed during his top executive positions in corporate America, most recently as the Exec VP for one of the largest supermarket chains in the Southwest.

Well, we all want our respective businesses to flourish, to fly high, to soar, just like Jim’s ABC Co. is, and I am sure you all are as eager as I am to learn the ingredients of his secret sauce. So, please join me in welcoming Jim Smith to the lectern.”

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Introducing a Speaker: The Five Ingredients of a High Impact and Productive Speaker Introduction, One that Instantly Builds Anticipation and Enthusiasm in the Audience

  • Length: not too long, because of the risk of the introduction becoming flat and soporific, thus losing audience interest; not too short (such as a mere 2 or 3 sentences) because in all likelihood it will then be superficial and perfunctory.

  • Delivery: Best for the introducer to present his or her piece with passion and enthusiasm because such show of emotion is often infectious and will help rouse and galvanize the audience.

  • Drama; attention-getting: An introduction is like a mini-speech, and so, just as is highly desirable for any speech, the opening words of an introduction should be attention-getting; the speaker should attempt to inject a bit of drama to make the audience sit up instantly.

  • Personalizing / Humanizing the speaker; endearing him or her to the audience: Say something personal (and, if possible, humorous) about the speaker so that the audience can “connect” with the speaker even before he or she ascends to the lectern.

  • Compelling everyone in the audience to divorce their minds of any distractions and focus sharply on the presentation: The introducer must say at least a couple of well-formulated sentences (or, at the minimum, give a hint) on why it is in the audience’s self-interest to listen intently to the upcoming speech. This will compel everyone to instantly disconnect their brains to the electronic devices in their possession and to any other distractions in the room.

A speaker introduction sample that embodies the above five ingredients: By Tuesday night of this week, I will post an actual introduction I wrote a few days ago for one of my public speaking coaching clients who is to deliver a keynote later this week to an audience comprising over a thousand people.

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal

Saturday, October 13, 2012

High Impact Presentations: Last Week’s Obama-Romney Debate was Proof that Speaking Forcefully is a Key Ingredient of Successful Public Speaking

By now, everyone who does not live in a cave knows that a preponderant majority of the nation regards Romney to have been the hands-down winner of the first presidential debate, the one that was held in Colorado last week. But what may not be so universally known is that because of the two antagonists’ different speaking styles that evening, Romney’s standing surged at the cost of Obama’s on every major issue that surfaced during the debate--even those issues on which Obama has had a shinier record! This according to a Gallup poll conducted 3 or 4 days after the debate.

While discussing those Gallup results earlier this week, PBS’s “Newshour” pointed out that specific areas in which Romney’s image moved substantially ahead of Obama’s included “candidate of new ideas,” “strong leader,” “willingness to work with others,” and “honest and truthful.”

The foregoing is perfect testimony to the power of forcefulness during a presentation or other public speaking activity. In other words, chances of your presentation being successful are sharply enhanced if you use some of the verbal and nonverbal techniques that help inject force into your words.

For instance, the antonym technique--a key verbal skill to project vitality and conviction, and which was employed liberally by Romney that night--is the defining trait of famed communicators such as former H-P CEO Carly Fiorina and Morgan Stanley's David Darst, as well as the others whom I have honored on the homepage of my website.

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Visual, Evocative Words to Emphasize Something

Here are two examples of articulate Americans using a vivid, evocative expression to emphasize something--examples which, I hope, will inspire the rest of us into similarly imaginative use of the language, especially when we are trying to break through the clutter.

  • Earlier this month, a guest on the “Diane Rehm Show,” emphasizing how something was deeply embedded into an entity and could not possibly be separated or extricated, saying: “…it’s baked in the cake.”

  • This past February, during a “Charlie Rose” interview, guest oncologist David Agus, author of the highly recommended book “The End of Illness,” saying “We are still in the early days of genetics therapy… to use Steve Jobs’s amazing analogy, it’s like jumping from lily pad to lily pad of molecular targeted therapies.” 
© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal

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

The latest edition of “Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, has been online for about ten days. 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. pusillanimous
2. progenitor
3. democratize
4. chafe
5. subterfuge
6. bête noire

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Answer to Yesterday’s Quick Quiz

To make sense of this post, you need to first read the previous one, which asks you to identify two things that the Morningstar analyst could have done to elevate his first impression even before he started speaking.

Answer: The first thing is he could have had a wide smile, what I humorously refer to as the “all-32 teeth-showing” smile. Why? Because a wide smile--with upper teeth clearly showing--conveys warmth and enthusiasm. Most people have an almost “visceral attraction” to others’ dental enamel.

The second step Mr. Hottovy could have taken to instantly convey a highly favorable first impression: Donning a high contrast attire since he has a high contrast face, thanks to his light complexion and black hair.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Quick Quiz, This Time on How to Create a Better First Impression

The 21-second video clip below is from the opening moments of a recent PBS-Nightly Business Report interview with Morningstar’s highly regarded R.J. Hottovy.

Question for you: Identify two things that Mr. Hottovy, who is described on LinkedIn as a global director for research at the famed investment advice company, could have done to create a stronger, a more favorable first impression even before he started to speak in response to the interviewer’s first question.

This should be really easy if you’ve read some of my posts below or attended one of my seminars on the subject of how to create a highly favorable first impression.

Tune in to this blog tomorrow for the answer.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Friday, August 31, 2012

My Answer to Yesterday’s Quick Quiz

To make sense of this post, you need to first read the previous one, which asks you to identify an outrageous grammatical error by a TV news reporter.

Answer: The error lies in reporter Paris Schutz using the subject pronoun “he” instead of the object pronoun “him” when he utters the following words: “Yusef Salazar says today is like a coming out of the shadows for he and other undocumenteds, whose future looks….”

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quick Quiz: Can You Identify the Egregious Grammatical Error in the Video Clip?

In the video clip below, there is an egregious and unforgivable grammatical error uttered by reporter Paris Schutz, who is in background. Can you identify it?

Tune in to this blog tomorrow for the answer.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

One More Time, How Do You Pronounce the First Name of Ayn Rand?

Ever since Mitt Romney named Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, Ayn Rand’s name has once again been in the ascendant, thanks to Ryan’s idolatry of the late Russian-born American writer and philosopher whose novels are polemics in favor of “rational self-interest,” individualism, and unfettered laissez-faire capitalism, among other things.

Well, attendant with the frequent mention of Ayn Rand’s name in the media is the almost equally frequent mispronunciation of her first name. For instance, just the other day (August 13), Craig Gilbert, who should know better since he is the Washington Bureau chief of a prominent Milwaukee paper, pronounced it as “Ann.” So, what is the correct pronunciation? It is exactly the way it is spelled, thus rhyming with such words as "line," "fine," "mine"….

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

The Perfect Handshake: Yes, It’s “Three Pumps” Regardless of Participants’ Gender

During my seminars on “Some Simple Skills for Creating a Highly Favorable First Impression,” I invariably demonstrate the “perfect handshake,” a key component of which is doing three pumps. And that almost always provokes the following question from someone in the audience: “Should there be three pumps even when it’s a guy shaking hands with a woman?” My unequivocal “yes” surprises some, perhaps because they think that three pumps might come across as much too macho. Sometimes I respond to that bit of incredulity by telling them of a video clip showing President Obama entering a small conference room packed with women, and that as he went around the table greeting each person, yes, he did the three pumps almost unfailingly.

Click on the video clip below, and you’ll see NBC’s Brian Williams doing a three-pump handshake with Ann Romney at the conclusion of his interview with her yesterday. Yes, the pumps look to be a bit tepid, but that’s probably because a vigorous handshake can be quite awkward when both participants are seated.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

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

The latest edition of “Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, will be online tomorrow. 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. insuperable
2. locus
3. portentous
4. teetering
5. disconsolate
6. execrable

Female Attire: A "Low Contrast Woman" Does NOT Have to Avoid Wearing Contrasting Colors; Key is to Keep the Level of Contrast Low to Moderate

This is in continuation of my last post—that of July 22. The video clip below shows Consuelo Mack’s scarf helping add a nice touch of color to her low contrast attire comprising a plain light blue/grey jacket. It’s a perfect illustration of how a low contrast woman can indeed wear clothes that have a light to moderate color contrast without her face being overwhelmed by it.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Female Attire: For “Low Contrast Women," A High Contrast Attire is a No-No!

In my last post on the subject of female attire (December 11, 2011), I tried to establish--with the help of some video clips--why a low contrast woman (such as a light-skinned blonde) should assiduously avoid wearing a dress that is almost identical in color to her face and hair because it will make her look flat and boring. And in the opening lines of that post, I had also stated that, as is the case with low contrast men, the face of a low contrast woman will be overwhelmed if she were to wear high contrast attire.

I now have a good video clip to prove my assertion that a low contrast woman should strictly avoid high contrast clothes. [Yes, this clip too features Ms. Consuelo Mack, whom I strongly admire because of the great public service she is providing through her “Wealthtrack” television program on PBS.] As the clip gets into motion, notice how your gaze is constantly pulled down to an area below Ms. Mack’s face, thanks to the extremely attention getting attire sharply lowering the center of gravity of her overall physical image.

BTW, does the above paragraph imply that a low contrast woman should avoid wearing something with contrasting colors? Hardly! Just visit my next post.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Disarming and Neutralizing One’s Critics and Detractors: Jamie Dimon’s Repeated use of the word “Company” Instead of "Bank" in recent Interviews

Ever since that huge trading loss at JP Morgan first came to light some couple of months ago, every word uttered publicly by CEO Jamie Dimon with regard to that misstep has gotten enormous coverage in the media. No surprise there. But here is something instructive: In every interview/ public statement on that subject, Mr. Dimon has tried assiduously to avoid using the term “bank” when referring to JP Morgan, uttering the word “company” instead. See for yourself by clicking on the following which is a link to the May 13, 2012, “Meet the Press” transcript—his first interview on this financial disaster.

By preferring the word “company” over “bank,” Mr. Dimon is doing exactly what I would have done had I been in his situation. The term “bank” has been in bad odor ever since that massive and highly unpopular federal government bailout of the banking industry during the financial crisis. So, by avoiding mention of “bank” when referring to the multi-billion-dollar loss is one smart tactic to help disarm and neutralize critics of “big banks” and thus minimize the public’s adverse reaction to JP Morgan’s misadventure.

BTW, I will be presenting a seminar on this topic (i.e., on “How to Disarm and Neutralize Your Critics and Detractors without being Offensive or Disrespectful”) at a Houston-based unit of Subsea 7 later this week.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Answer to Yesterday’s "Quick Quiz"

To make sense of this post, you need to first read the previous one, which lays out the context in which PBS panelist Susan Davis of USA Today used fuselage when she meant a similar sounding but completely different word.

There is no question that the word she had in mind was fusillade, the definition for which is: 1. a discharge of firearms, either simultaneously or in quick succession. 2. something resembling a fusillade; a vigorous or rapid outpouring of something.

By substituting fusillade for fuselage, her sentence “(Senator Dick Lugar) was hit by a fusillade of negative attack ads…” makes perfect sense.

Incidentally, fusillade was featured in the January, 2009, edition of my “Words of the Month.” Click here to review my nine examples illustrating its use.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Quick Quiz: Which Word Did the “Washington Week in Review” Panelist Have in Mind? Case of Synaptic Malfunction

In the May 11, 2012, edition of “Washington Week in Review,” while discussing why Senator Rich Lugar was defeated in the Republican primary in Indiana earlier this month, USA Today’s Susan Davis said, “… He bumbled the response to (questions about his not having owned a home in the state since 1977). …He was also hit by a fuselage of negative attack ads which defined that race….”

Clearly, fuselage, which refers to the central body of an aircraft and which accommodates the crew, passengers, and cargo, is not what Ms. Davis meant. Can you guess which similar sounding word she had in mind? Tune in to this blog tomorrow for the answer.

Incidentally, the above is a case of “synaptic misfire,” just as happened to President Obama during his “60 Minutes” interview about a year ago, when he mistakenly uttered denigrate in place of a similar sounding word. [See the “Quick Quiz” post of May 15, 2011.]

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

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

The latest edition of “Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, has been online for the past couple of weeks. 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. punctilious
2. imperious
3. highfalutin
4. megalomaniacal
5. corpulent
6. cynosure

Thank You, George Will, for Giving Us a Humorous but Piercing Expression to Describe Someone Who Habitually Utters Nonsense

Chances are that even if you missed last Sunday’s edition of “ABC This Week,” you’ve heard the two harsh but humorous words that were uttered spontaneously by conservative panelist George Will to describe Donald Trump. That piercing expression, which sent everyone else seated around the table into peels of laughter, instantly became airborne in the news media. Here’s what happened:

When the host asked Will why Romney, who wants voters to take him seriously, keeps making televised appearances with Trump, the extraordinarily intelligent and verbally gifted political commentator & columnist replied: “I don’t understand the cost benefit here. The costs are clear…The cost of appearing with this bloviating (pause) ignoramus is obvious. Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be very low and you can still intrude into American politics. Again, I don’t understand the benefit.”

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Sunday, May 13, 2012

High-Impact Public Speaking: Example of a Pregnant Pause in Action From a Historic Speech by LBJ

The 30+ second video clip below illustrates a highly experienced and admirable public speaker employing the pregnant pause masterfully to emphasize a key word or phrase.

The historic clip—yes, it's kind of faded—is from President Johnson’s first address to Congress after assuming the presidency. In exhorting the audience to get going on the late President Kennedy’s “stalled” agenda, Johnson uses a strategically placed pregnant pause to emphasize that by so doing, the nation will be ensuring that the assassinated president’s life and death were “not in vain.”

The clip was cut from Rita Braver’s stirring segment on the famous LBJ biographer Robert Caro (yes, it is Ms. Braver’s voice in the background), featured in the April 29, 2012, edition of CBS’s “Sunday Morning”--my favorite television program by far!

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Monday, April 30, 2012

Example of a Poor First Impression: Much of a Speaker’s Face Being Blocked from View by his Coffee Cup as he enters the room

Take a look at the video clip below. As White House Press Secretary Jay Carney enters the press briefing room, much of his face is blocked from view because, for some reason, he wants to take in some few precious sips just before taking control of the lectern. Not a good idea. To me, this sort of body language smacks of perfunctoriness. It suggests the presenter is much too casual, that he takes the audience for granted. And no, my criticism is not at all ideological: I am not one of those rabid, mindless critics who find fault with Obama and his administration on every issue. Yes, some of my readers might disagree with my stance, pointing out that because the audience in the White House Press Room is extremely familiar with Carney, this is not a case of a poor first impression. What they (the people who do not find fault with Carney’s body language in the clip below) are not realizing is that Carney must surely be aware that on days when he has something important to say, TV news channels typically broadcast images of his entering the room, and several viewers across the nation are probably not familiar with Carney’s personality.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

You can Predict the Success of a Couple’s First Date by Analyzing their Language

Just in case you missed today’s edition of NPR’s Monday morning “health blog”: You can predict the success of a couple’s first date—and thus the probability that they will still be dating several weeks later—by analyzing their language. According to UT psychologist James Pennebaker, when there is a match in the language style of two people who are speed dating--in other words, “when they used pronouns, prepositions, articles and so forth in similar ways at similar rates--they were much more likely to end up on a date.”

This piece is really worth a look.

Spontaneous Pauses: Facilitators of Fresh Words and Synonyms

In a post early last year (Jan. 31, 2011) I wrote about the vital role played by spontaneous pauses when someone is speaking extempore because such pauses help facilitate the use of fresh words and synonyms, the defining trait of articulate people. The short video clip below, showing famous film director James Cameron giving his impressions of the Mariana Trench, is an excellent example of how a spontaneous pause can help generate a stream of synonyms, making one’s communication vivid and compelling.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Executive Communication: Shell Oil President Marvin Odum Wins Me Over Instantly, Thanks to a Most Disarming and Endearing Smile

Take a look at the video clip below which is from a recent interview broadcast on PBS’s famed Nightly Business Report. I believe you too will be full of admiration for Shell Oil President Marvin Odum’s facial expression: His wide, almost constant, and somewhat apologetic smile gives him a disarming appearance, thus helping him come across as personable, approachable, full of the milk of human kindness… (I could go on).

[Click here for the full interview.]

The clip below is now Exhibit One when I am coaching top executives (as well as others who have to make presentations to new audiences) on how to be endearing and create a highly favorable first impression.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Glaring Mispronunciations by Leading Lights

First, let me remind you of the purpose behind this periodic feature on glaring mispronunciations: It stems from my belief that if someone who is well placed or who moves in “articulate circles” is mispronouncing a word, chances are that a few of my blog readers are also making the same pronunciation error. In other words, this feature is not at all meant to denigrate or ridicule any particular person. And the reason why I name the program and identify the speaker is solely to make this feature credible.

Two notable cases of mispronunciation by high profile people caught my ear in recent weeks:

(i) Albeit being pronounced as [awl-by-it] instead of [awl-bee-it] by Wharton Professor Susan Wachter during the January 19 edition of Marketplace. Hear it for yourself by clicking here—she begins speaking at about 2.0 minutes into the clip. BTW, Ms. Wachter has a very mellifluous voice and great diction.

(ii) Artifice being pronounced as [ahr-tuh-fys] instead of [ahr-tuh-fis] by filmmaker Kevin Smith during a March 20 interview on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” The mispronunciation of artifice occurs at 6.0 minutes into the interview. Here is the link.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Boasting (with Humor) that you are “Severely Patriotic” or “Severely American”; Inducting the Adverb “Severely” Into Your Humor Vocabulary

Recall Mitt Romney’s assertion during a major speech last month (February 10) that he was a “severely conservative” Republican governor….

While Romney was dead serious when he uttered those words—after all, he was desperately trying to woo diehard conservatives—the highly unusual use of the adverb “severely” with such a positive connotation quickly became the butt of jokes, and has been grist for my “humor mill.”

For instance, last week, while introducing someone who shares my concern for the environment, I described her as a “severe environmentalist,” using a panoply of nonverbals to emphasize the word severe, thus drawing laughter from the audience, as intended. And on numerous occasions in the past few weeks, I have jokingly referred to friends as being “severely Democratic” or “severely Republican,” depending on their ideological bent, and praised some as being “severely progressive” or “severely advanced” in their thinking.

Thank you, Mitt, for enlarging my “humor vocabulary”!

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Friday, March 30, 2012

Vocabulary Enhancement 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. inveigh
2. fatuous
3. wunderkind
4. histrionics
5. metastasize
6. consummate


-- (with reference to the ongoing vitriolic attacks among the Republican presidential contenders) analysts wondering if all the inveighing against one another will leave the ultimate nominee severely weakened

-- Rick is constantly inveighing against something or the other

-- to inveigh against abortion rights; inveighing against the absurdly high pay packages of some corporate CEOs

-- Rush Limbaugh: an unfailing inveigher against anything and everything that is liberal; on the issue of abusive labor practices in foreign countries, everyone seems to be attacking Apple--no one inveighs against

-- amid the mounting international condemnation of Syria’s Assad regime, inveighers being of all stripes: the Muslim nation of Turkey, the Arab state of…


-- my previous employer suffered from the fatuous thinking that if you have a fantastic new product, sales will automatically ….

-- I think Doug is pretty realistic, not Pollyannaish or a fatuous optimist

-- this is a fatuous statement because….; some of the fatuous and inane ads during last evening’s Super Bowl

-- the comment “let them eat cake” falsely attributed to Marie Antoinette by her detractors who wanted to portray her as fatuous, callous, and blithely unaware of…

-- a fatuous question, fatuous argument, fatuous statement, fatuous meeting, or fatuous stereotype; a fatuous belief

-- the fatuous conspiracy theories triggered by the sudden death of Andrew Breitbart


-- when Bob Simon of “60 Minutes” asked Dudamel “how do you react to being described as a genius, a prodigy, a wunderkind,” the maestro responded…

-- Ben and Marsha are our firm’s two wunderkinds, both being at least 15 years …

-- Radha Chitale of ABC News writing: “Omega-3 fatty acids are the latest wunderkind of the mood world

-- Mozart, the musical wunderkind

-- Tiger Woods, who is now well past his wunderkind phase


-- watching the defendant shed many a tear, people wondering: is the show of remorse histrionic or sincere?

-- somebody’s deliberate use of histrionics as a negotiating tactic

-- many in the audience being turned off by Nicole’s histrionics, her over-the-top performance, during her campaign speech

-- a driver who is given to throwing up his hands histrionically every time the freeway traffic comes to a halt

-- people who have been diagnosed with a “histrionic pattern of behavior” or “histrionic personality disorder” because of their…

-- the frequent histrionics, or histrionic outbursts, that characterized Adolf Hitler’s speeches


-- the fear that America’s use of drones could quickly metastasize into technologically advanced nations using such weapons unhindered to obliterate anyone anywhere…

-- we need to confront the issue before this sort of indiscipline metastasizes and becomes out of control

-- Phil’s concern for looking neat and well dressed has metastasized into an obsession

-- the committee’s charter has metastasized into a heady ambition to…

-- an unfounded notion metastasizing into a widely held belief, thanks to repeated assertions of a  falsehood by some prominent Americans with ready access to a media mouthpiece

consummate (as adjective)

-- the late Louis Rukeyser, whose constellation of highly admirable attributes made him a consummate interviewer of his panelists and guests

-- Steve, our division manager, is a consummate leader—for instance, he can….; somebody’s consummate preparation for a Q&A session

-- consummate happiness is a way of life, not a destination

-- the Supreme Court ruling: “Headlong flight, wherever it occurs, is the consummate act of evasion: it is not….”

-- a consummate master of the piano; a consummate entrepreneur; a consummate professional; a consummate dealmaker; a consummate pianist; a consummate worrier or a consummate liar; an ancient artifact that reflects consummate skill; Bruce Hoffman widely regarded as a consummate expert on counterterrorism; Bill Clinton, a consummate campaigner

© Copyright 2012  V. J. Singal

Answering Questions Effectively: When Replying to a “Why Question,” Start With a Direct Answer and Only Then Elaborate, If You Must

Earlier this week, while presenting a workshop on how to speak concisely and emphasize your point in just three sentences at the Southwest Regional Conference of FEW (“Federally Employed Women”) held at Houston’s Hyatt Regency, one of my key points was the following: When responding to a “why question” (such as “why is such-and-such thing important” or “why is such-and-such development affecting the price of milk in grocery stores”), it’s always a good idea to first give a direct answer--preferably by way of a relatively short sentence--and only then elaborate, if necessary, rather than the vice versa. An immediate direct response helps provide the listener with an instant milestone as to where you are heading, thus making the overall reply easier to digest and more compelling.

An illustration of the wrong way to answer a “why question”: the video clip below, from a recent PBS interview with actor and activist George Clooney, shows how cumbersome it can become for the listener when the person answering a “why question” first launches into the elaboration phase and only then gives the direct answer to the question. In this case, when PBS’s Judy Woodruff asks Clooney whether the resolution of problems in remote South Sudan will really affect the price of gas here in the U.S., he first gives a mini-101 on the various factors affecting gas prices--buttressing it with statements from President Obama and Senator Lugar--and only then answers affirmatively “there is no question …that it does raise the price.”

Clooney’s response would have been far more elegant and streamlined, and therefore easier to digest, had he first said something like “Judy, there is no question that the goings-on in South Sudan are affecting gas prices here” and then gone into the geopolitical aspects.
© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Terminating an Interminable Handshake; How to Free Your Hand From Someone Who Won’t Let Go (Without Seeming Rude)

Today, while discussing the “Three-Pump Handshake” during my seminar on “Some Simple Verbal and Nonverbal Skills for Creating a Highly Favorable First Impression” at a division of Subsea 7, one of the participants asked the following question: What is one to do if the other person just clings onto you, i.e. will not let go of your right hand even after you’ve ended the “three pumps”? In other words, how do you extricate your hand from the other person’s grasp without coming across as rude?

After some discussion, here was the consensus: Go ahead and free your right hand from the other person’s hold (after the three pumps) but as you are doing so, gently place your left hand on the other person’s right shoulder or arm as a compensating gesture. Needless to say, you should be exhibiting the “all-32 teeth-showing smile” as you are executing all these maneuvers. In fact, a couple of the audience members--one of them a woman--confirmed having tried this before and that it worked out beautifully.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

How to Successfully Goad Someone into Saying Something When They are Speechless or Just Cannot Find the Words

Here is a surefire way to successfully exhort someone into uttering something if and when the latter just cannot find the words (because of, say, the momentousness of the occasion): “Just say anything…You don’t have to be Shakespeare!”

Got the above idea from a recent episode of the wildly popular Masterpiece series “Downton Abbey.”

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Visual, Evocative Words to Emphasize Something: An Inspiring Example From an Interview with Daniel Yergin

A couple of months ago, while discussing the impact of fossil fuels on the environment during a PBS Newshour interview, Daniel Yergin pooh poohed doomsday scenarios, saying “It’s a concern and has to be managed” and “the issue is of finding the relevant new technologies, something we’ve been doing for some 250 years.”

Yergin than elaborated on his optimistic frame of mind by stressing that the alternative/ renewable energy technologies of today (gas turbines, for instance) are far, far more efficient than those of the 1970s and 80s, and that the reason why people don’t readily perceive all this progress is that such advances are not “dramatic.” He emphasized his point by quoting a European Union official who is reported to have said “there is no red ribbon to cut” -- for instance, in the matter of cars having become a lot more efficient in recent years, “you don’t get great photo ops.” Well said, Mr. Yergin.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vocabulary Enhancement 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. palliate
2. artifice
3. superfluous
4. unswerving
5. politic
6. polemicist

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Public Speaking Tips: How to Handover Control of the Lectern; the Pervasive Problem of Clumsy/ Inelegant/ Awkward Handovers

First, some examples of clumsy, awkward, or inelegant handovers: Take a look at the first three of the five video clips below. What do you see? In each case, after the two people have shaken hands, the person who has just finished speaking (Leon Panetta, Louisiana Governor Jindal, and Ford’s then-CEO William Clayton Ford respectively)steps in between the lectern and the next speaker, thus briefly blocking the audience's view of the latter, as he moves away to resume his seat. Bad idea! And here's why:

Look at clips 4 and 5 which display an “elegant” or proper handover. Note how the person handing over control of the lectern goes behind the next speaker (Texas Governor Perry and DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman respectively)--stepping backward, if necessary--(that is, after shaking hands or whatever) as he or she begins walking toward his/her seat, thus ensuring that the audience's view of the next speaker is not blocked even for a moment once that person has come up to the lectern.

Note that the problem of an untidy or clumsy handover only occurs when the seat or chair of the person handing over is on the same side of the room as is the chair of the next speaker. If the two are seated on opposite sides of the room, the situation of an awkward/ improper handover does not arise.

© Copyright 2012 V. J. Singal