George Orwell once wrote that a classical education would be impossible without corporal punishment. Maybe that’s why it isn’t taught in schools today. A classical education was demanding. It included rhetoric: the art of effective speaking and writing.
What is an argument?
In the Argument Clinic, a sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, an absurdist comedy series, a man pays for a five-minute argument. The customer goes to a room where a man behind a desk hurls abuse at him. The customer interrupts saying he paid for a five-minute argument, and this is not an argument. The abuse hurler apologizes explaining this is Abuse, Argument is next door. Continue reading “The art of persuasion 2: How to argue”
Lawyer and politician, Arlen Specter, started as a Democrat, then became a Republican, and then went back to being a Democrat again. As you can imagine, he resisted being labeled. What he actually said was, “I don’t like labels. I think they conceal more than they reveal — sort of like a bikini.” Continue reading “Labels: A necessary evil”
“Any organization that won’t take the trouble to be both clear and personal in its writing will lose friends, customers, and money.”
— William Zinsser, in his 30th-anniversary classic, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
Concentration is at a premium in an increasingly distracted world. And this is why writing a book is so difficult for the busy professional. Writing a book requires long periods of distraction-free thinking-time, focus, and solitude.
Author, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, termed Flow as a state of hyper-concentration where we lose all sense of time. We become what we do. Focus or distraction become habitual. But concentration is a skill we can develop with practice. An incremental approach works well. On the other hand, constant interruptions weaken our ability to focus and to think through complexity. When it comes to concentration it’s a case of use it or lose it.
I was browsing in a New York bookstore when I overheard a man ask for a book on how to win an argument. The two young women behind the counter giggled. I wondered if they knew about Demosthenes. Persuasion is a serious subject, and this bookstore customer wasn’t just a victim, he was doing something about his problem. Continue reading “After losing an argument”
You can’t acquire confidence by reading about it. You become confident by doing. Before you succeed you may have to fail for a while. You need a safe place in which to practice and get constructive feedback.
It’s all very well to “say” step out of your comfort zone, but each one of us is unique. A big step for one person might be a small step for someone else. It all depends on where you’re coming from, your history, and your unique personality. If you’re just learning to swim, you wouldn’t want to enter yourself for an Olympic swimming event. If you go too far too soon you’ll become overwhelmed. At that point, you just give up. Continue reading “Speaking with confidence”
Reviewed by Christopher Richards
A dangerous book
Which messages cause people to comply? Robert Cialdini’s new book addresses this question. Pre-Suasion is a revolutionary way to influence and persuade. Pre-suasion operates by creating favorable conditions a few moments before trying to influence. This is a powerful book, and not without its ethical concerns. Continue reading “Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini”
Perfectionism will kill your writing. Perfectionists are quick to judge, and that can be a good thing under certain conditions. But not when writing the first draft. First drafts aren’t meant to be publishable. Writers must learn to tolerate half-baked ideas and ill-constructed sentences in the beginning. Writing is rewriting.
Perfectionists tend to have unrealistic expectations of themselves and other people. Yet mistakes are a necessary part of learning. We should be kind to ourselves because we all have to start somewhere. Think about how infants learn to walk. They don’t give up the first time they fall down. An infant doesn’t think, “This walking stuff is not for me. I’m no good at it. I’ll crawl through life.” Continue reading “Perfectionism stops you from starting”
Reviewed by Christopher Richards
Your message won’t speak for itself
Whether you’re speaking to a child about putting on her shoes, or you’re head of an organization trying to solve a global problem, you need to understand and be understood. Continue reading “The Master Communicator’s Handbook”