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.”
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 “Communication confidence”
Have a purpose
Purpose, relevancy, and ideas in business writing
In the 1987 comedy, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, stressed marketing executive, Neal Page (Steve Martin), is reluctantly trapped in a shared hotel room with an optimistic and talkative curtain-ring salesman, Del Griffith (John Candy). Del mindlessly can’t stop talking about the mundane and boring details of his life. Eventually Neal loses his cool. After a long tirade, he shouts, “And here’s another thing: Have a point! It makes it so much more interesting for the listener.” Continue reading “Purpose, relevancy, and ideas”
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”
Look at those two down there on the ground. Humans, they’re called. Not a brain between the two of them. They spend the entire day running about, giggling, or wrapped in each other’s arms. What nonsense! I’m going to s-s-shake things up. Continue reading “Fable: Why rhetoric gets a bad name”
George Orwell once wrote that a classical education would be impossible without corporal punishment. Maybe that’s why it isn’t taught in school today. A classical education was demanding. It included rhetoric: the art of effective speaking and writing.
Lost in the mists of time our ancestors came up with an astonishing idea. Better to trade with neighboring tribes than to club them over the head and take their stuff. Continue reading “Business is a conversation”
“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
Perfectionism isn’t excellence, diligence, or accuracy. Neither is it tenaciously doing the best you can. Perfectionism is intolerance of a necessary learning process.
Think about how an infant learns to walk. He doesn’t give up the first time he falls down. He doesn’t think to himself, “This walking stuff is not for me. I’m no good at it. I’ll crawl through life.” Continue reading “Perfectionism will kill your writing”