Monday, December 15, 2014

How to Rebut & Disarm Your Critics and Detractors: Exemplary Disarming & Neutralizing by Gen. Michael Hayden in Wake of the “Torture Report”

Over the past few years, few top executives, be they in the private sector or in the government, have impressed me as much as has former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden. In fact, I recently “awarded” him 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 among the most effective communicators in the land. 

As you can see in the two video clips below, Michael Hayden skillfully uses several communication tactics to disarm or at least reduce the vehemence of those who began denouncing the CIA soon after the release of the “torture report” last week--on Tuesday, December 9.  Specifically, by providing a rich and compelling perspective (within just half a minute in each video clip), Michael Hayden very adroitly reframes the issue and employs cognitive dissonance to put his critics on the defensive.
You can bet that these clips will be excellent source material for case study and exercises during (i) future renditions of my popular seminar on “How to Disarm and Neutralize your Critics and Detractors without being Offensive or Disrespectful” and (ii) my executive coaching sessions. [For a sampling of participant comments when this topic was presented to a standing-room-only audience of about 100 project managers at a recent PMI conference, click here and scroll toward the bottom of the Web page.]

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal


A “Call to Arms” to Combat Climate Change; Kerry’s Visual and Evocative Analogy for Emphasis

Climate change--or rather, the fecklessness of governments around the world (including the U.S.) with regard to combating  global warming--has been in the news lately because of the just concluded U.N. climate summit in Lima, Peru.  So, I felt it’s a good time to reproduce a couple of short segments from a forceful and stirring speech by Secretary of State John Kerry in Jakarta, Indonesia, this past February during which he issued a “call to arms” (to quote PBS NewsHour) to confront climate change.

Excerpt One -- Kerry’s visual and evocative expression:
“The science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3-D movie.”

Excerpt Two -- His exemplary censure of climate change deniers:
“We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact, nor should we allow any room for those who think the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits.”

Very well said, Mr. Kerry. Now, if only others fighting for urgent action on this issue would begin using similarly strong and hard-hitting language to denounce climate change deniers. [See my May 18 post “some choice words to lambaste politicians who reject the scientific consensus on climate change.” In that post, which was triggered by famous Princeton scientist Michael Oppenheimer’s warning that “the millennials will have hell to pay,” I described climate change deniers as “today’s new breed of Holocaust Deniers.”]

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Raising Your Profile in the Workplace: 12 Juicy and Bite-sized Tips from Harvey Mackay on How to be More Visible and Thus “Stand Out at Work”

Harvey Mackay, author of numerous New York Times bestselling books, is spot-on when he writes “Doing a good job isn’t enough to succeed at work. You’ve got to be visible to make a real impact.” [Italics for emphasis mine.]  Click here to read his 12 juicy and really easy-to-digest tips featured in a recent edition of the Houston Business Journal:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

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

Have you looked at the latest edition of Words of the Month,” my free vocabulary enrichment feature, which has been online since early October? 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. métier
2. valorize
3. puerile
4. citadel
5. verbosity
6. winsome

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Executive Communication Skills: Video Clips Showing a Top Exec Looking Feeble & Uninspiring Thanks to Abysmal Body Language; Sample Solution

Click on the two short video clips below (43 seconds and 7 seconds respectively) which are excerpts from NBC interviews with former 4-star Gen. Shinseki a few weeks before he resigned as head of the Veterans Administration. Facing a big-time crisis of confidence in his leadership, the general should have come across as highly determined and confident when replying to questions such as “Are you willing to accept full responsibility” and “Do you completely understand why there is…?” Instead, you see responses that are weak and uninspiring thanks to body language that borders on the pathetic.

In my opinion, the singular reason why Shinseki appears so lackluster and diffident in the clips is that during all of his leadership training in the Army, he never got to appreciate the extraordinary significance of nonverbal skills at key moments, especially when an executive’s image and projection of leadership are of paramount importance. Indeed, as an executive communication coach here in Houston, I am unfailing in stressing with my clients the vital role of body language.

Sample Solution: So, what could Shinseki have done differently? In the interest of brevity, let’s examine the shorter clip in which, after being asked “Do you completely understand why there is that level of outrage right now,” the general’s feeble and somewhat equivocal response is: “Oh, I think I do--I'm a veteran myself.” Out of the dozens of different combinations of word choice, vocal variety, facial expression, and other body language, here is just one specific example of how Shinseki could have responded much more inspiringly and projected gravitas:

1. choice of words: something like “I absolutely do—I too am a veteran” or “There is no question that I do—I too am a veteran”
2. body language:
(i) with reference to the words in Italics: uttering them slowly, giving weight to each syllable, followed by a split-second pregnant pause in the case of "no question";
(ii) saying the word “too” loudly;
(iii) a more serious or intense facial expression;
(iv) torso leaning forward;
(v) gesticulating with right index finger pointing down during the first half of the sentence;
(vi) pointing toward his chest and displaying a disarming smile while saying “I too am a veteran.”

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Friday, October 10, 2014

Answer to the last Quick Quiz (of Sept. 25)

To make sense of this post, you need to first read the previous one, which asks you to identify the mispronounced word in a 26-second video clip.

Next, my customary declaration for posts on “mispronounced words”: The objective is NOT to denigrate or ridicule someone. Instead, I feature such posts in the belief that if a highly educated or sophisticated person is mispronouncing or misusing a particular word, there is a high probability that at least a few of my blog readers are making the same error. In other words, these posts are meant to serve as “pronunciation/ usage alerts!” And the reason why I name the radio or TV program and identify the speaker is solely to make this feature credible.

Answer: The mispronounced word is vigilantism which, in the video clip, Hari Sreenivasan is heard pronouncing as vij-uh-lan-tee-iz-um. The correct pronunciation: vij-uh-lan-tiz-um.

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Quick Quiz: Identify the Mispronounced Word

Click on the 26-second video clip below, which is an excerpt from the September 3, 2014, edition of PBS NewsHour. Can you identify the mispronunciation by Hari Sreenivasan?

Here's a transcript: “Hackers who self-organize under the collective name Anonymous have been involved in cyber-attacks on everything from corporations to intelligence agencies to local governments, even at one point the ‘NewsHour’ website. In this week’s issue of ‘The New Yorker,’ David Kushner takes a close look at Anonymous in an article, ‘How Anonymous Incited Online Vigilantism from Tunisia to Ferguson.’ He joins me now. So, Anonymous has a slogan--says ‘We are legion.’”

Answer in my next post

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

“A Real Colonoscopy at the NFL” -- Norah O’Donnell’s Brilliantly Evocative and Humorous Analogy for Emphasis

About two weeks ago, on “CBS This Morning,” Norah O’Donnell used a really evocative and humorous analogy to depict the disquiet in NFL’s executive suite ever since the Ray Rice domestic violence controversy suddenly intensified (after it became known that a videotape showing the Baltimore Ravens running back slugging his then-girlfriend--and now wife--Janay Palmer in the face had been sent to an NFL female exec several months ago).

During the show, when Charlie Rose commented “So, Mueller (former director of the FBI) will probably be seeking that person--the female executive--who received and watched it five months ago,” here is how Norah O’Donnell responded:

“The NFL promises the investigation will be independent. Mueller will have access to all NFL personnel and records; but I think they want to do a real colonoscopy at the NFL--I mean finally some real discovery about what everyone knew, i.e., who is it who got the tape and who all knew what’s on the tape.”

[Quick background for those who have not kept abreast with all the twists and turns in the Rice saga:  Reports of Rice’s domestic abuse had been making news for several weeks following wide circulation of a video clip that showed the NFL star dragging an unconscious Janary Palmer out of an elevator. Then, early this month, the controversy suddenly became red-hot when it became known that a videotape of Rice punching Palmer in the face while they were in that elevator, which is what rendered her unconscious, had been mailed to a top NFL female exec several months ago and that the latter had acknowledged receiving and viewing the tape.

News of the second video clip--the one showing Rice slugging Palmer-- set off a prairie fire, with an indignant public asking: If at least one NFL exec has known about it all along, how can NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell be telling the truth in claiming that, until this month, he had no knowledge of what happened in that elevator prior to Rice dragging out Palmer’s body. The public outcry led to the NFL hiring former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate and determine (i) the identity of that female exec who had received the tape, and (ii) who all had subsequently gotten to know of its contents.]

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vocabulary Expansion 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 this past Monday. 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. hydra-headed
2. perspicacity
3. quietude
4. derring-do
5. handmaiden
6. electric

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Highly Acclaimed Kenneth Branagh on “Why Shakespeare?” – “His Words Trigger Explosions in the Human Imagination…”

Earlier this summer, in coordination with the opening of his “Macbeth” in New York, Kenneth Branagh appeared on “Charlie Rose.” During the interview, the host put his customary question “Why Shakespeare?” to Branagh – a question which Charlie Rose has asked of every previous Shakespeare-related guest. Result, a most thoughtful and graphic response:

“He consistently entertains, by which I mean he stimulates, and provokes, and makes us laugh and cry, and goes beyond words. There is an atmosphere in the play that is evoked and conjured in the presence of the words which are, after all, only words on a page--that’s all they are--but they trigger these explosions in the human imagination and in the human spirit…”

I can’t recall any previous guest on “Charlie Rose” giving such an analytical and vivid explanation of what makes Shakespeare’s plays so unique and rewarding.

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something: Gov. Jerry Brown Analogizes Today’s California to the 1848 Gold Rush

I’m thrilled to share with you an extraordinarily brilliant analogy used by Gov. Jerry Brown to praise his beloved California during a BBC interview earlier this month (July 1). His metaphorical language, no doubt in reference to brainy Silicon Valley, was so striking, and so original, that my jaw dropped in wonderment; for several seconds after the interview was over, I sat motionless, staring at the TV screen in stupefaction. Here’s what he said and the context.

BBC interviewer: “He (Gov. Brown) supports gay marriage but has vetoed gun control. He is an environmentalist but supports fracking.  What kind of a Democrat are you?”

Brown: “I’m a thinking Democrat, and an independent. California itself is full of opportunities and, one might say, even contradictions. So, to govern that and to lead that takes a certain empathy for different points of view.

“This is the place of the original gold rush back in 1848, and it’s essentially never stopped!  Only now, instead of taking gold out of the ground, we are taking great ideas out of the minds of some of the most brilliant people in the world. That is California!”  

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Friday, May 30, 2014

Vocabulary Expansion 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 May 20. 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. pièce de résistance
2. defrock
3. vassal
4. importune
5. muzzle
6. crescendo

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Choice Words to Lambaste Politicians Who Reject the Scientific Consensus that Human Activity Is Causing Climate Change

While I have long championed a reduction in carbon emissions, it was a recent statement by famed scientist Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton--that “the millennials will have hell to pay” (if the world continues with its current inaction) that, sort of, shook me out of my stupor. [He uttered those words on the “Charlie Rose” show sometime last month.] I suddenly realized that I owed a responsibility to my young son--a millennial--because I helped bring him into the world, i.e., the responsibility of deploying my verbal skills toward fighting man-made climate change.

So, last Sunday, when I heard Senator Marco Rubio proclaim during an interview on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that he absolutely rejects the notion that human activity is contributing to climate change, I was indignant. Why? Because I have watched several of Rubio’s past interview on TV and come away with the impression that he is smart, knowledgeable, bright. As I reflected over Rubio’s stand, the following descriptors sprang to mind:

1. That he belongs to that select group of people who can be described as “today’s new breed of Holocaust Deniers.” Note that this strong and penetrating term is not at all an exaggeration when we think about the havoc predicted by scientists if nothing is done to sharply alter the current trajectory of the world’s carbon emissions.

2. Keeping in mind Rubio’s intellectual and other strengths mentioned in the second paragraph of this post (as well as the fact that he knows full well, just as you and I do, about the scientific consensus regarding the causes of the rapidly accelerating climate change), one can justifiably say that Rubio is “prostituting” himself for political purposes. Absolutely shameful!

In upcoming weeks and months, as and when I think up other terms and expressions for describing and denouncing politicians who, for their political ends, reject the scientific consensus with regard to climate change, I will write a post in the hope that readers who share my passion and concerns on the subject will use these terms for their own speeches and writings.

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Visual, Evocative Expression to Emphasize Something: “I wish he (Pope Francis) could bottle it because I would order a case...”

Here is a recent example of a highly articulate American using a vivid, evocative expression while emphasizing something and thus making his assertion indelible:

During his last appearance on CBS “Face the Nation” (April 20, 2014), an elated Cardinal Timothy Dolan talked about how the popularity of the Catholic Church was at a historic high, saying “more people than ever feel that the Church is in touch with their needs,” something he attributed to the new pope. “Pope Francis has ignited the imagination of the world,” said Dolan, which led to interviewer Norah O’Donnell asking “What is it about Pope Francis?”  Here is how the Archbishop responded:

“I wish I knew and I wish he could bottle it because I would order a case…I need it,” followed by his customary big laugh.

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Vocabulary Expansion 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 two 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. vainglorious
2. canard
3. arcana
4. impregnable
5. talismanic
6. pontificate

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


-- the vainglorious Vladimir Putin has two more accomplishments to brag about—a Winter Olympics that was devoid of terrorism and the annexation of Crimea

-- considering that Meg loves to talk about her career accomplishments at every opportunity, her latest achievement is bound to further inflate her vainglory

-- according to a well-known sportswriter, baseball great Joe DiMaggio was so vainglorious that, as a precondition for attending an event, he insisted on being introduced as “the greatest living ball player”; Gen. George Patton, famous for displaying, vaingloriously, a chestful of medals and other military decorations

-- I wouldn’t be surprised if the sales dept. ends up having a lot of egg on its face—lately, they’ve been giving lots of vainglorious estimates of what they can accomplish next year; I was so embarrassed when the introducer read out almost the entire bio page on my website--the audience must have pronounced me a vainglorious buffoon

-- with reference to the famous Wake Island meeting between Truman and MacArthur (when the general tried to get the president’s plane to land before his), Evan Thomas attributing those actions of MacArthur to the military commander’s “vaingloriousness”


-- David Kirkpatrick of NYT telling “Charlie Rose” that Egypt’s Gen. al-Sisi and his henchman are behind the canard that Morsi was trying to turn Egypt into an Iran-like Islamic state

-- these statements about my past are totally false and I have the documents to disprove these canards

-- despite numerous studies having established that women make better managers than men, many people continue to voice this old canard that women are lousy managers

-- an analyst trying to dispel the canard that corporate America is scandal-ridden

-- Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith telling “60 Minutes” that the well known story about Vincent van Gogh having committed suicide is a canard—the two American authors claim van Gogh died as a result of “accidental manslaughter”


-- former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s wife telling “60 Minutes” about the kind of arcana her husband used to plunge into while having his morning coffee—for example, reports on the variation in protein content among the different varieties of grain

-- Herb can explain the most arcane technology in the simplest of terms—so simple that even a 6th grader can understand

-- this is pretty simple stuff—it’s not some arcana that’ll drive you up the wall; regarding my upcoming presentation, I’ve been told not to get into the arcana because that will put everyone to sleep; having to grapple with some arcane formulas

-- a lawyer going through the city’s bylaws with a fine-tooth comb in the hopes of finding, within the arcana, a loophole that can help his client; a Hindu priest performing arcane rituals; to specialize in the arcane field of proteomics

-- an investor avoiding hi-tech stocks, saying such businesses are too arcane and beyond his comprehension


-- thanks to compelling evidence by several witnesses for the prosecution, some legal analysts saying that the case against Oscar Pistorius is almost impregnable

-- Hank will never succumb to any vices—his values, his beliefs, his principles are impregnable

-- a computer’s supposedly impregnable firewall; an attorney’s impregnable arguments in a court case; a company impregnable to a takeover, thanks to its new shareholder structure

-- finding Troy’s walls to be impregnable, the Greeks coming up with a deceptive device—the Trojan Horse—to enter the city

-- the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, stripped our sense of the U.S. mainland’s impregnability and led to the creation of, among other things, the Dept. of Homeland Security


-- Todd Purdum of Politico commenting that the State of the Union seems to have “a talismanic effect” or talismanic power on conversations in D.C. following that annual address by the president

-- the late Rev. Reg Dean, who died recently at the age of 110, attributed his long life to a talismanic potion given him by a doctor in India during WWII

-- for speech contests and the like, this author preferring to wear his striped maroon shirt, referring to it as “my talismanic shirt

-- somebody’s seemingly talismanic approach to work deadlines; something with talismanic significance; talismanic symbols that originated in Ancient Egypt and are still in use, such as the “Ankh” and the “Eye of Horus”

-- a piece of jewelry believed to serve a talismanic function; a shaman administering a talismanic formula to cure someone


-- ever since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the media being saturated with talking heads’ pontifications about how the U.S. should respond

-- even though she is the most senior and most knowledgeable person around here, Dawn expresses her opinions without being dogmatic, without pontificating

-- Bill is an out-and-out pontificator, which is why it’s so hard to get him to so much as acknowledge other points of view

-- a coworker who loves to pontificate about the architectural styles of downtown buildings

-- some former lawmakers who have turned into pontificators, earning tens of thousands of dollars for each speech despite their dubious record while in office

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Botching the relatively common word “litigious”; Even you Frank Deford?

Among all the men and women who grace American radio and television, sports commentator Frank Deford’s command of the English language is perhaps second to none, a position occupied during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s by the late Louis Rukeyser. But this morning, while listening to Deford’s regular Wednesday segment on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” I realized that even this master of the English language has some glaring weaknesses in the matter of everyday American lexicon.

While discussing the LA Clippers owner, whose scandalously racist comments over the weekend have created a sensation, Deford said to NPR host Steve Inskeep: “Donald Sterling is known to be a very litiginous man. He’s not going to go softly into the night.”

Litiginous? Really? There is no such word in the English language! The correct word, and a pretty common one at that, is litigious, pronounced [luh-TIJ-us].

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hand Gestures that Help Project Leadership, Dynamism, Determination, Gravitas…while also Accentuating Your Words of Action

If you are a frequent visitor to this blog, you’ve probably viewed my video clip of NASDAQ’s Robert Greifeld (blog post of August 19, 2010) displaying an astonishing array of highly effective hand gestures within a mere fourteen or fifteen seconds.

To reiterate what I said in that post, I’ve never seen an executive use his or her hands in such an inspiring manner. Indeed, the wide range and sustained nature of Mr. Greifeld’s gestures enabled him to come across as very convincing, dynamic, and vigorous. They helped confer a level of cogency to his plans and actions.

Well, the short video clip below, excerpted from a recent speech by John Kerry, will further enlarge your vocabulary of hand gestures, especially on how to use fists when you want to manifest leadership, determination, firmness, or when you wish to inspire and exhort your audience.

For someone like me who is an executive coach here in Houston, video clips such as the two featuring Greifeld and Kerry are a godsend!
© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Male Attire: Tip for Chinese Men (and other Similarly Light-skinned Men with Black Hair) on How to Look Sharp

Several months ago (June 30, 2013), when I wrote my first ever male attire tips exclusively for men of Chinese origin (and other similarly light-skinned men with black hair), I had promised to post, in just a few weeks, a video clip showing a Chinese man with attire that is exemplary. In short, a Chinese male wearing high contrast attire to match his high contrast face.

Well, I have one, finally, and I apologize for the inordinate delay. It shows none other than the Chinese head of state, Xi Jinping, in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Why is Mr. Jinping’s attire worthy of emulation by other Chinese men? Because his reddish tie matches one of the hues in his facial skin. This concept was discussed at length in my most recent blog post for Caucasian men (February 4, 2014). Together, the three primary elements of Mr. Jinping’s attire--the tie, shirt, and jacket--present a high contrast, as it should. Needless to say, if the Chinese president had gray hair or if he was bald, this level of contrast of his clothes would diminish the glow from his face and thus be inappropriate.

In ensuing months, I hope to post other examples of good and weak attire by Chinese men.

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Friday, February 28, 2014

Oscar-Nominated Film Director Alexander Payne’s Incorrect Use/ Mispronunciation of Highfalutin Words makes him look Bookish and Insular

First, my customary declaration for posts of this kind: The objective is NOT to denigrate or ridicule someone. Instead, I feature such posts in the belief that if a highly educated person is mispronouncing or misusing a particular word, there is a high probability that at least a few of my blog readers are making the same error. In other words, these posts are meant to serve as “pronunciation/ usage alerts!” And the reason why I name the radio or TV program and identify the speaker is solely to make this feature credible.

Did you watch the “Charlie Rose” interview last week (February 20, to be precise) with famous movie director Alexander Payne? [As you may know, his latest film, “Nebraska,” has been nominated for the best picture Oscar. I’ve watched all nine movies nominated for that award and, in my opinion, “Nebraska” is the best.] Well, during the approximately 16-minute interview, Payne threw out a number of high-caliber words, including oneiric, verisimilitude, and foment. The trouble is that some of those words were mispronounced or misused!

Take a look at the first of the two video clips below. You hear Payne pronounce oneiric as [oh-near-ik] when the only acceptable pronunciation for the word is [oh-ny-rik].  In the second video clip, you hear him say "...I feel like I am directing the creativity of others--fomenting and conducting their creativity..." I hope one of my blog readers has a direct line to Payne and can convey to him the following: the meaning of foment is to incite, instigate, or stir up something (such as trouble, violence, rebellion…). It is never used in the sense Payne had in mind.

It would be worth your while to revisit the concluding paragraph (the one titled A reminder why correct pronunciation matters”) in my blog post of last year triggered by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's pronunciation of chasm as [chaz-um] instead of [kaz-um]. As I said then, please do not ever use a high-caliber word unless you are absolutely sure about its pronunciation and usage. Otherwise, you’ll come across as being bookish and insular. And some in your audience might even think that you learned about those highfalutin terms while preparing for the interview or presentation. 
© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Vocabulary Expansion 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 two 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. peripatetic
2. avarice
3. miasma
4. iconoclast
5. obtuse
6. subservient

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


-- as he relentlessly travels from one world capital to another, John Kerry becoming one of our most peripatetic secretaries of state ever

-- this job is one of the more peripatetic assignments within the company

-- V.J. telling someone, laughingly: “Since 2006, I’ve traveled around the country quite a bit, presenting communication seminars for the benefit of corporate, nonprofit, and federal government entities and, of course, speaking at conferences and conventions. So, yeah, my latest incarnation is that of a peripatetic.”

-- a peripatetic professor constantly pacing the room while he lectures; the peripatetic lifestyle of some consultants because…; a peripatetic artist who frequently exhibits his works at different places

-- famous opera singers whose careers have turned them into peripatetics as they hop from one city to another; a politician who can be described as a peripatetic both geographically and ideologically


-- conversations just dripping with avarice

-- the movie “Syriana” depicts the evil that can result when powerful government officials do the bidding of an industry captain whose avarice his no moral limits--who is avariciously intent upon maximizing his wealth

-- the avarice that has characterized some art museums as the compete for bragging rights

-- the avaricious leaders of some nations in Africa and Asia who secretly built huge Swiss bank accounts

-- the extremely tragic “Trail of Tears” of 1838-39, a result of Andrew Jackson dishonorably defying the Supreme Court and the State of Georgia then avariciously evicting the Cherokees from their homeland because gold had been discovered there


-- until the recent budget agreement between Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, the miasma of hopelessness and pessimism which had paralyzed Washington D.C.

-- an upright American businessman having a hard time penetrating the miasma of corruption that pervades some parts of the world

-- my previous sales job was in one heck of a miasmic environment which I wouldn’t recommend even to my worst enemies; the miasma of alcohol that emanates from someone married to the bottle

-- the dark and miasmic past that used to be called East Germany; the miasma of smog that has been hitting Beijing latterly; the miasmic future depicted in the 1982 film “Blade Runner”

-- many Haitians living amid a miasma of indescribable poverty and deprivation


-- Vanguard founder John Bogle unpopular with the mutual fund industry because of his lifelong iconoclasm

-- he has done lots of unconventional things that have really shaken up the establishment—quite the iconoclast!

-- years ago, he was really admired for his outside the box, iconoclastic views and approach, but now he is traditional and conformist in his thinking, like everyone else;
two committee members always clashing because one is orthodox and the other is iconoclastic

-- an iconoclastic blogger; an iconoclastic chef; an architect’s iconoclastic designs; two U.S. senators known for their iconoclasm: Republican John McCain and Democrat Russ Feingold

-- the late Ransom Myers, who iconoclastically took on the fishing industry and national governments and successfully challenged the zeitgeist that “overfishing of the oceans” is an oxymoron


-- with regard to the scandalous lane closures on the George Washington Bridge last September, one wonders how anyone sworn to public service can make such a nakedly obtuse decision, no matter what their agenda

-- the presenter kept repeating the material, as if we were much too obtuse to understand the stuff the first time through; Scott has a tin ear for people’s reactions to his stories and jokes, which explains why he spoke so obtusely last evening and offended some of the women present

-- referring to the nearly 100 wild elephants being killed by poachers each day to satisfy the gluttonous and ignoble demand for ivory in China and South East Asia, this author exhorting his Chinese and other readers to goad and shame their respective governments into shedding moral obtuseness and squelching the demand for elephant tusks

-- somebody’s exasperating obtuseness; Congressman Todd Akin’s obtuse remarks about rape costing him the election

-- the fact that the U.S. Senate failed to pass commonsense background checks for gun buyers even in the wake of the murder of 20 elementary school children at Sandyhook bespeaks of the level of obtuseness that prevails in Congress


-- following the execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s uncle for, among other reasons, applauding only tepidly during the dictator’s speeches, you can bet that the people of that Stalinist state will be even more fawning and subservient when in the presence of Jong-Un;  some in Iran showing blind subservience to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei

-- in our business, product quality is of preeminent importance, so cost reduction targets must always be subservient to quality goals 

-- you’ll witness a lot of deference and subservience when Sharon, our founder and CEO, is running a meeting

-- a medical study that gives the impression of being objective but is actually subservient to the interests of the pharmaceutical industry that paid for it and which, therefore, uses select pieces of data to arrive at its conclusions

-- in many companies, HR playing a subservient role and often being overruled by operations and sales execs

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Adopting the Posture of a Supplicant to Disarm a Superior When You Have to Say something very Disagreeable or Unpalatable

If you are a “Downton Abbey” aficionado, you’ll probably recognize the scene in the video clip below which is from Episode 3, first aired in January 2013.  It occurs when Lord Grantham is told that his wealth has evaporated, thanks to a big investment having gone south.

Notice that just as the bearer of ill tidings (i.e., the person in whose office this meeting is taking place) is about to say that it is Lord Grantham himself who is to blame for that lousy investment decision, he suddenly becomes extremely disarming and apologetic by radically changing his sitting posture and lowering his voice--he assumes the posture of a supplicant, just the thing to do when you are telling your boss that it is he (or she) who screwed up!

Bottom line: When you need to disarm someone and minimize any offense, in addition to using verbal techniques (such as those discussed in my seminars and mentioned in some of the previous posts on disarming), this “physical” or nonverbal, posture-transforming, technique can be a big help, especially when you have to tell your superior face-to-face that he or she is/was wrong!
© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tip for My Caucasian Readers on How to Create a High-Impact Attire: Capitalize on the Colors in Your Facial Skin When Selecting a Tie

My first post on how to select an appropriate tie (November 28, 2012), which had an accompanying video clip of Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee to illustrate my point, focused on how someone with light hair could look sharp by picking a tie of somewhat matching color (i.e., matching the color of his hair) and then anchoring the rest of the attire around it. The harmony thus created significantly enhanced the person’s facial glow and his overall appearance.

Well, an alternate starting point for picking a high-impact attire is for a man to select a tie that matches one of the hues that are in his facial skin and then anchor the rest of the attire around it. The video clip below shows Sen. Bob Corker wearing a tie which matches the dominant color of the upper half of his face. Note that this particular approach is especially easy for Caucasian men. Why?  Because of the gradation of pinkish and reddish hues that usually exists on the face of the typical Caucasian, thus allowing him to pick a tie from a wide range of matching and pleasing colors.

My compliments to the exemplary Sen. Corker, a man who knows how to capitalize on the silver gray of his hair and the range of colors embedded in his facial skin.

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Answer to Yesterday’s Quick Quiz

To make sense of this post, you need to first read the previous one.

In my judgment, the word that begins with the letter m and which the speaker intended to use was “mishmash,” which means hodgepodge.  The fact that miasma is what came out of his mouth was probably because of a synaptic misfire, something I’ve discussed in two previous “quick quiz” posts – the ones dated May 30, 2012, and May 15, 2011.

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Quick Quiz: Which Word Did the Speaker Have in Mind When He Misspoke? Case of Synaptic Malfunction

While researching my database for past usage of “miasma,” a word that will be featured in the next edition of “Words of the Month,” I came across the following from a long-ago interview on NPR:

“What they have is a miasma of half-baked ideas and proposals without a central unifying theme.”

Clearly, miasma is not what the speaker meant. [Definition of miasma in the American Heritage dictionary: 1. a noxious atmosphere or influence. 2. a thick vaporous atmosphere or emanation.]

Can you guess which word the interview guest had in mind, assuming that it too began with the letter “m”?  Tune in to this blog tomorrow for the answer.

© Copyright 2014  V. J. Singal