I am about to make you self-conscious about what you say. Or, to improve your social stature. Following these guidelines might even make you a more engaging person. I hope the latter. After all, I am a therapist.
Counselors meet many with personal insecurity and low self-esteem. How often do we hear, “I’m so boring.” These oft times timid souls are self-effacing and therefore believed by others either uninteresting or conceited. Those who withdraw from the crowd risk the opinion that they think themselves “too good” to join in.
If you want to compel attention, first think about what you say. Many of us find a new person physically attractive from a distance. Since light travels faster than sound, he may appear bright until you hear him. Fresh ideas help you retain the outer magic.
I do not want to listen to the echo of past conversations. My brain needs dusting, along with scintillating talk as a cleanser.
Here are some words and sounds you ought not to make if you desire to enthrall:
- Choose adverbs with care. Words like frankly, honestly, and very lose their strength with each additional use.
- Say less rather than more. If your utterances intrigue, the other might follow-up with a question. This is called conversation.
- Beware of the following lesson. The 20th-century composer John Cage created a piece entitled 4’33” consisting of a performer coming on stage, sitting down, and timing-out just over four-and-a-half minutes before taking his bows. As Cage wrote in a poem, “I have nothing to say and I’m saying it.”
- Avoid overuse of superlatives: stunning, awesome, shattering .
- Common words such as good or bad need explanation. What was good and in what way?
- Such adjectives as unfair are overused. Another’s unfairness is your fairness. Explain yourself, but avoid whining.
- The word hypocrite presents the same dilemma. All of us are hypocrites at some time in our lives. Maybe at any time.
- Try to overcome beginning sentences with so or um or uh. Speaking is not a race. Your vocalization will stand in relief against the backdrop of stillness. Conceive of your voice as the foreground in a painting where silence serves as background.
- Some phrases are empty of distinction. “At the end of the day,” comes to mind; “bottom line” is another. I attended a six-hour seminar in which the speaker, otherwise an intelligent and competent woman, used “bottom line” a few dozen times. Had she repeated those words once more I might have rushed the podium.
- “You guys” is a frequent reference made to mixed gender groups. “You guys” might include women. “Ladies” or “ladies and gentlemen” will get you some notice and show respect. You may dislike the formality I’m suggesting. Remember, I want you to stand out.
- Pronoun problems occur when using he, she, they, and so on. The listener might not realize to whom you are referring lest you specify the person.
- Skip the uptalk or upspeak : try not to transform your declarative statements into questions by raising your voice at a sentence’s end. You succeed only in sounding insecure when you uptalk regularly.
- If you believe something, say so. Feeling is not believing. One is an emotional state, the other intellectual.
- When you don’t know a word, consult the dictionary and write the meaning down.
- What words might you substitute for the ordinary ones? Instead of great, consider considerable, significant, notable, important, valuable or major, among others.
- Listen to recordings of famous orators for guidance. I’m thinking of people like Martin Luther King Jr., Churchill, and Adlai Stevenson II.
- For shock value, be honest. Unless you are a counselor, you might not recognize how much we humans hide.
As noted up top, much as I wish you more security, excessive concentration on what you are saying is a symptom of ill-confidence. Rehearse alone. Consult a thesaurus, too. Both will make real-time socialization easier.
Once you employ a few of the suggestions above, you’ll be better able to put your focus where it belongs: on the words of the other.
Consume works of the finest authors. Mark Twain, one such writer, said: “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
Twain’s implicit suggestion to read is essential. Unless the people you wish to associate with haven’t a thought in their heads, you need to have a few and a knowledge base they lack.
All this will take effort. Courage, too. Speech is the oral gift of portraiture, like a brush placed in the hand of a Rembrandt or a Van Gogh. Think of your voice as the voice of one who sings art-songs. If you do, you will already have become more worthy of respect — both understood and remembered.
Both of the pictures above are called Triple Self Portrait. The first is by Norman Rockwell, the second by Egon Schiele. They were sourced from Wikiart.org.
I really enjoyed reading this. It was really interesting and, like, something I really learned from. I’m going to, um, remember to not keep repeating myself because that’s really boring.
You are a fast learner, Joan. 😉
I don’t think of myself as a boring person. Owing to my wide reading and staying up-to-date on national and international affairs, I can converse intelligently on a wide range of topics. I engage with others by listening to their stories and in validating their experiences. Some regard me as passionate; others as too emotional. Not everyone will consider me “more worthy of respect.” I’m okay with that.
Good point about “respect,” Rosaliene. If a person has strong opinions, no matter how well supported, there will always be unhappy, contrary voices. No, indeed, you are not a bore, at least in your writing, and I’m confident in conversation, as well.
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I am in therapy with a great psychiatrist and we are in the midst of dealing with childhood trauma from emotional abuse, emotional incest, and a family of origin with toxic communication. He is slowly bringing me out of my comfort zone so I will talk with other people. During therapy sessions I have come to find silence very comforting so I am hoping to think first and let a little silence in before talking to others. Thank you for the suggestions. For me conversing is scary due to my past
Your conversational problems, Pat, do sound like they have their roots in your abuse. You are to be congratulated for facing all this and sticking with the process to the point of making significant progress. Best wishes for your continuing advance.
This is an “awesome” 😊 article, Dr. Stein and one I will keep for future reference. I have self-esteem issues but I do not think I am boring….I am approachable and engaging in spite of it all.
Glad you got the “awesome” point, Nancy. From your comments alone I’ll bet you are not boring at all
This is my major shortcoming, among others. Thanks for the tips, Dr. Stein! I can see how your tips may also be useful in written expression. Repetion in speech is harder to overcome than repetion in writing, however. You can always edit your written works, but speech requires more control and patience. Although, I make the mistake of writing like I speak – without edits, such as in my comments. I also ramble and fail to listen well. It is great to actually read examples on how to improve. I had no idea therapy included these lessons.
Therapy is often consumed with other things, but I thought it useful to say something less common. Glad it rang a bell.
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