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Expand Your Verbal Intelligence

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Expand Your Verbal Intelligence

Expand Your Verbal Intelligence

    The most common method of thinking in the Western world is verbal thinking. Although we have a range of intelligences including numerical, musical, spatial, emotional, verbal and kinaesthetic intelligences, it is verbal intelligence that we depend on most. We tend to think and express ourselves in words.

    It can be argued that mastery of the use of words and verbal intelligence is the most important skill we develop because acquiring further skills depends on our comprehension of language. A tremendous proportion of the early learning for an infant is in developing verbal skills – learning to speak, to understand speech, to read and to write. Whether a baby is brought up in Beijing, Madrid, Sydney or Moscow it will surely spend thousands of hours acquiring expertise in its native language. He or she will become proficient with the amazing range, power, complexity and sophisticated subtleties of language. However, once a certain competence has been acquired most people stop developing verbal skills.

    Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between people’s abilities with words and range of vocabulary and with success in their chosen fields. People who can express themselves clearly are perceived as more intelligent and higher status. They are accorded greater respect. So why do we not continue to enhance our verbal skills? Why do we stop doing what we spent most of our early years doing?

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    The trouble is that we take our verbal abilities for granted. Once we have mastered reading, writing and speaking we move on to other things. We have acquired the most important tool in our mental toolbox. We depend on it for all sorts of tasks but we rarely sharpen it. It makes better sense to maintain, enhance and extend the tool. Here are some ways we can do that.

    1. Get a good dictionary and thesaurus

    Two of the most loyal companions on your desk should be a dictionary and a thesaurus. Use the dictionary to learn the meanings and derivations of new words you encounter. Also use it to check the exact meanings and spellings of words that you are not sure of. The thesaurus is very helpful whenever you are writing and need an alternative to a word in order to avoid repetition or to achieve a variation in meaning. Your computer probably offers a spellchecker and a thesaurus so by all means use them but they should be seen as handy digital aids to be used alongside the mighty physical volumes.

    2. Read

    It may seem silly to advise someone who is reading this text that they should read, but in the modern world we are so busy with work and we are bombarded with so much information by TV broadcast, telephone and internet that reading books and articles can be squeezed out of our agenda. Reading the works of really good writers is one of the best ways to develop our abilities with words. Modern and classic novels, leading non-fiction books and top quality newspaper and magazine articles are all important sources for us. How often do you find time to read poetry? Try some new poems and re-read old favourites for inspiration and appreciation of the sublime skills of the poet.

    Reading works that are well written helps at two levels. It will increase our understanding of concepts and our acquisition of knowledge and at the same time it helps develop our core skills at comprehension, vocabulary and expression. Most of our reading should be speed reading so that we are taking in the information rapidly. There are various books and courses on speed reading. However, when we occasionally encounter a piece of text which is extremely cogent or well written we should re-read it, taking time to examine what it is that makes it so successful. We should savour the words and metaphors that the author uses, analyse his or her arguments, underline the key points and perhaps make a note to mimic some of this style in our own writing.

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    If you are fortunate enough to have a partner who likes reading then try reading aloud to each other. Choose an interesting short piece and read it for your partner with feeling and emphasis. Children learn by listening to their parents or teachers read and by reading to them. We can do the same and it should be a pleasurable activity. When you have read the piece you can discuss it with your partner. What did each of you get out of it? What aspects of the author’s style did you like most? What points did the author make and do you agree with them? Play at being students again.

    3. Capture new words

    There is a regular feature in the Reader’s Digest magazine entitled, ‘It pays to expand your Word Power’. It is sound advice. Whenever we bump into new words we should turn to the dictionary and spend a moment learning the meaning and derivation of the word. It is easy to skip new words and race on through the text so we need discipline if we are not to lose this opportunity.

    Say we come across the word philology. It means the science of language and its historical development. It comes from the ancient Greek word philos, meaning a friend, and the Greek word logos, meaning a word – so philology’s roots means love of words. While we are in this section of the dictionary we might notice that philanthropy, philately, philharmonic and philosophy all use the same Greek root of philos and they all refer to the love of something. If we do this we are on our way to becoming a philologist, someone who loves words and the studies the science of language.

    As you build your vocabulary you should try to use the new words in context as this helps you to remember them. However, it can look pompous or pretentious to use many long and obscure words in everyday speech. The main benefit of having a large vocabulary is the ability to use a word with exactly the right meaning at a time when it is appropriate. A secondary benefit is that we better understand intellectual writing. There are many guides to good writing style and you have to find one that suits you. In general it is better to keep your written and spoken sentences short and clear. But do not hesitate to occasionally use an unusual word when it conveys exactly the meaning you require.

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    4. Write, rewrite and edit

    We all write, whether it is a text message on a cell phone, an email message or a novel, and we can all improve our writing. A good way to improve your writing is to read over what you have written and ask yourself these questions:

    1. Does what I have written express exactly what I mean?
    2. Will it be clear and comprehensible to the reader?
    3. Can I make it more concise or more accurate?

    We should look for superfluous words and sentences. Most of our digital photographs can be improved by cropping in order to focus on the subject. In exactly the same way, most of our written work can be improved by cutting out unnecessary or repetitive elements.

    5. Play with Words

    Children learn language by playing with words, testing, experimenting, making mistakes and being gently corrected. We should adopt a playful attitude towards words and treat them as friends. Word games will increase your verbal dexterity and intelligence rating. Many standard IQ tests use word puzzles. Anagrams, cryptic crosswords, code-breakers, word searches, dingbats (also known as rebuses) and other verbal conundrums are excellent mental exercise. Scrabble is ideal in this regard. If you want to play it seriously you will have to learn many obscure short words that use the high value letters. The dictionary game is simple but fun. One person reads out a definition from the dictionary and others have to identify the word. The reader can choose a common word but start with one of its less common meanings.

    Practice improves your performance with word puzzles which is one reason why people can prepare for IQ tests and improve their scores in them.

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    6. Listen to Yourself

    In just the same way that you critically review your draft writing in order to sharpen it, you should try to do the same with your speech. If it is possible, try to view some video clips of yourself speaking. This is particularly useful it you are rehearsing for an important talk or presentation. Most people are surprised to discover that they display a number of errors or bad habits in their everyday speech. For example many people pepper their talk with filler words or phrases such as ‘like,’ ‘well,’or ‘you know’. Hesitation, repetition, rambling and mumbling are other common faults.

    Rudyard Kipling wrote, ‘Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.’ They can paint amazing images, inspire and intoxicate. If you continually work on developing your range of words and skills with words then you will reap the rewards. Blow your mind!

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    Paul Sloane

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

    Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

    1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

    According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

    “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

    Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

    Warming up

    If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

    If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

    Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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    1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
    2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
    3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

    Stay hydrated

    Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

    To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

    Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

    Meditate

    Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

    Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

    Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

    Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

    2. Focus on your goal

    One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

    Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

    Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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    Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

    If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

    3. Convert negativity to positivity

    There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

    ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

    It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

    Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

    Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

    Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

    4. Understand your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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    However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

    “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

    Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

    Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

    One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

    5. Practice makes perfect

    Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

    In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

    Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

    6. Be authentic

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

    Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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    Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

    To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

    Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

    7. Post speech evaluation

    Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

    Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

    We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

    You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

    Improve your next speech

    As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

    Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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    • How did I do?
    • Are there any areas for improvement?
    • Did I sound or look stressed?
    • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
    • Was I saying “um” too often?
    • How was the flow of the speech?

    Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

    If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

    Reference

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