Saturday, February 9, 2019

Words Matter, The Content of Words Matter, Critical Thinking Matters

The following is a 5 minute speech I wrote, prepared and delivered at Toast Tel Aviv a branch of Toastmasters International in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Jan 30 2019

Good evening ladies and gentlemen I’d like to speak to you tonight about why:

Words Matter, The Content of Words Matter, Critical Thinking Matters

Two incidents that I recently encountered served as triggers for composing this talk.
The first -- I was watching a political event, and a young woman spoke about human rights. She stitched together some sweet, Politically Correct statements, that were superficial and even incoherent.
But not just that, what she was implying, was also untrue.
Human rights, women’s rights, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, due process, are not even close to being the same across the globe.
But to my surprise, not to say dismay, she got a huge applause.

And I’m thinking what…?
Does the content of words have no meaning any more?

The 2nd incident, a few months back, a statement was thrown around, that 93% of communications is non-verbal. It’s based on a research from the 70’s that communication is:
55% Body Language (including facial expressions, hand gestures, posture).
38% vocal tone (rate and volume).

Only one problem -- it’s not true.

The study was based on an experiment where they had people say a single word like “thanks” and “maybe” and in that limited single word context: tone and facial expression may outweigh the meaning of the word. The study was never about public speaking communication, yet — it’s often quoted in that context.

Let's think about it for a moment.

Anyone who’s ever been to a foreign country where they speak a foreign language, will immediately know that they can’t guess 93% of the content, by watching body language and listening to tone of voice [1].

When I was researching this topic I came across someone with over 40 years of experience in journalism and international marketing communication [2]. He writes that Toastmasters (apropos), devotes the first 4 chapters of its beginner's manual to: organizing the speech itself, including a chapter specifically on the importance of words in conveying meaning… Only in Chapters 5 and 6 does it discuss body language and vocal variety.

Words matter, critical thinking matters.

Who won the Nobel prize in Literature for brilliant oratory (i.e., public speaking)?
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1953 was awarded to Sir Winston Churchill "... for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values."

Many of his great historic speeches, were delivered over the radio, in a time that preceded Television (no visual communication).
3,500 years ago one of the more important speeches of western civilization was delivered, that contained the timeless words: “Let my people go!”
The message of those profound words, would inspire men & women, thousands of years later, from the American civil rights rights movement, to the freeing of Soviet Jewry.

My Call to Action:
  • Don’t be seduced by pretty words, if they are superficial.
  • Profound words and content matter.
  • Don’t be afraid, to be a counter-voice to group think -- when it doesn’t stand up to common sense and critical thinking.
So let me leave you with one final quote -- appropriately by Winston Churchill, about the Truth:
The truth he said is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.

Thank you very much.

[1] Debunking the myths of non-verbal communication By Ian Brodie
[2] The 7% Rule Fact, Fiction, Or Misunderstanding By Philip Yaffe

#publicspeaking #wordsmatter #toastmasters #toastmastersinternational #communication #rationalism #freethought #speech #speechwriting #telaviv #israel #tlv

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