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5 Ways to Become a Better Reader

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5 Ways to Become a Better Reader

Language and literacy are among mankind’s greatest inventions. Evolving and even dying over the course of human history, languages are a reflection of our cultural and societal attitudes. Today, surrounded by social media, television, movies, billboards, and, of course, books, the ability to read and write is crucial to forming an identity and expressing one’s feelings. Most humans acquire language in early childhood and speak fluently when they are about three years old, but our continued relationship with language gives shape and meaning to our lives. Here are 5 ways to become a better reader.

Take it slow.

Many readers feel that they read too slowly, especially compared with others, but the truth is that the faster you read, the less likely you are to comprehend fully what you’re reading. The best readers are flexible—slowing down when needed, especially if weighty concepts or unknown words are grouped closely together—and always have a dictionary at hand. If you get to the end of a paragraph and realize you haven’t absorbed any of the information, do not hesitate to re-read the passage. Reading is a lifelong process: learning to read closely and slowly will help you become faster over time without missing anything.

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Read aloud.

When humans first began reading written words, it was unusual to read in silence. Though generally inappropriate for commuters or for late-night adventurers, reading out loud is one of the best ways to improve your reading ability. You may feel silly reading to your cat (or to no one at all), but once you get into the rhythm of the author’s voice, you will begin to read more accurately and with better vocal expression. Try listening to the author reading their own work—you’ll be surprised to find how clearly it comes through on the page.

Feel it.

Can you remember the first piece of writing that transported you to another world? One of the most powerful moments in a young, fluent reader’s life is learning to enter into the lives of imagined heroes and heroines. Subtleties of language and perspective become potent clues to deeper underlying meanings, and are easy to miss for even the most seasoned readers. As you read, let the language inform your pace, give pause to important gestures and dialogue, and allow striking ideas to simmer. In no time, you’ll be appreciating novels like fine wine.

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Write.

Writing and reading go hand-in-hand: how and what you read affects how and what you write, and the best readers often make the best writers. But while much can be learned from close, repeated readings, there are many secretive pleasures to language that can only be experienced through the practice of writing. This is why certain authors are labeled “writer’s writers”; another level of meaning and intense appreciation exists for those who create rather than simply observe. Try writing every day for a month; you will never read the same again.

Tell your friends.

All of literature is essentially communication from an individual’s inner voice to an audience. Though Franz Kafka’s dying wish was that all of his works—written in obscurity, often late at night, and mostly unpublished—be burned, aren’t we glad his friend, Max Brod, didn’t listen? There is something magical about sharing books with friends or a book club. It’s a good way to see the world from someone else’s eyes and, in the process, critically examine your own reaction to what you’re reading.

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Do you have any other helpful tips for becoming a good reader? Please leave a comment in the box below!

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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