Friday, 22 February 2013
Improving one's speech.
I will admit, I have never been a very good orator. Part of this probably stems from the fact that no one wanted to hear what a fat kid had to say, except from maybe "stop it!", and once a habit's formed, it's pretty hard to break. I remember getting a hand-me-down cell phone from my alpha thug brother when I was sixteen, one of the few displays of kindness he ever showed me.
"What am I supposed to do with this?" I asked.
"Just take it or give it back," he snapped.
I got the message, palmed the phone and kept it duly charged and ready at all times. Over the course of the next two years I had it, no one ever called me on the thing, so I handed it away to one of my cousins a couple of months before I was due to be conscripted and cellphones weren't allowed during basic military training (at least, for me).
Things got a little better for me after I got out of BMT and got posted into the Navy, but I'd never had the gift of the gab even when messing around in the galley at mealtimes. I was just the guy at the edge of the group who laid back and watched other people go about their business and small talk. Blended in, so to speak.
I think this is part of why I prefer writing to speaking - the others being, as I covered before, being a little slow on the uptake and my gamma nature which I'm still fighting. I'd like to think I've gotten a little better at the "strong, silent type", but circumstances will always contrive to land me in a spot where I have to inevitably open my mouth and make conversation, or even worse, small talk. Hand gestures can get only get you so far, after all.
That's when all the stupid starts to show up. I keep cutting people off, speaking too soon after someone else's stopped - which results in not getting my thoughts in sufficient order and then stuttering because my brain doesn't have any words to pass along to my lips, appear too eager, too supplicating, use too many words for too simple an idea...
...I think you get my point. Part of the problem, too, I believe, is that I lack sufficient inner game, which I'm working on right now, but becoming an interesting person isn't something that happens overnight. I've been working on making conversation topics on what I do do in my life, but people can only talk so much about fitness and personal experiences, and most people don't show much interest in the design of sedimentation tanks or how to properly produce and use a McCable-Thiele diagram.
Now, though, it's time for me to clear this oratory hurdle.
In my "Have a Plan" post, I outlined my need to be more quick on my wits - no point thinking up a witty comeback after the conversation's ended, yes? The only way to do this, I suppose, is to have more conversations, and as I've outlined in the past, I've made an effort to be a little more chatty with strangers, even in this country where everyone bends their head and tries to remain unnoticed.
Of late, I've been noticing a reaction in most people that I haven't seen before when I address them: that not quite unlike an animal caught in vehicle headlights. It's interesting, and yet I feel an unease at making folks uncomfortable, especially since I don't think I've changed my voice/tone that much. Maybe it's a combinatory effect of posture/voice; unless you're dealing with a hooligan, I'll admit it doesn't take very much to intimidate the average subservient zombie that passes for a Singaporean, compared to other nationalities. It's what an ethos of "keep your head down" does to a people.
With regards to the mechanics of conversation, 3rd Millenium Man has posted a great article over at Return of Kings, and although I do agree with it for the most part, I can see how it might be psosible to bog down a conversation with too many minute and irrelevant details, and everyone knows that women love to talk about themselves. I'm sure everyone will agree it's more an art than a science, so I'll just have to develop my sensibilities in that area.
Self-awareness is also an important factor. Sure, it sounds silly to be making faces in front of the mirror or even ask a good buddy to observe you while you're speaking, butit goes without saying that something as simple as your posture can pretty much set the tone and direction of the conversation. To go back to my two favourite folks, Cappy Cap's laid-back demeanour and Aurini's piercing glare - when they do that, it really sets the tone in their videos. I can mute the sound and hide the video title, but still can guess at whether they're touching on a light or heavy topic or how earnest they are by the way they're holding themselves.
So, to summarise, my goals in this field are:
*To become a more interesting person, so I actually have something to talk about.
*To completely jettison my fear of speaking to strangers.
*As a collarary to the above point, to completely jettison my fear of pushing the social envelope - joking and teasing, to be precise.
*To improve my conversational skills by offering relevant details in moderation instead of giving simple (or even worse, monosyllablic) answers.
*To become more self-aware when engaged in conversation.
To a guy who was a fat kid eleven years ago and a quiet, retiring recluse of a gamma for much of the time after that, it's a terrifying prospect. But we've all got to face our fears.