Posts tagged " speech "

Crime Doesn’t Say

April 25th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

On news broadcasts and interviews I have noticed something scary.  Boys involved in violent crime are largely illiterate.  This chilling correlation has been confirmed to me by friends in criminal justice and law enforcement.  You’d think that just by the laws of probability, at least some assailants and murderers when caught would have more to say than just meaningless gesticulations and obscenities.  I have been looking for just one carjacker who, upon being apprehended, told the policeman, “It’s challenging to understand, officer, I know, but while taking my afternoon constitutional, I was seized by an irresistible desire to inflict physical harm on an innocent citizen and to transfer his motor vehicle to my possession.”

Ancient Jewish wisdom suggests that the desire to communicate is present from birth and that parents who neglect this most crucial of their responsibilities may be complicit in their children’s later lack of socialization skills.

A really interesting phase in raising a child occurs just before he begins to speak.  Many observant parents notice a period of apparent anger and frustration.  The child is ready to communicate with speech, desperately desires to communicate and cannot quite put the words together yet.  Some parents try to avoid this difficult time by teaching their infants baby sign language.  It fascinates me to watch pre-verbal toddlers moving their little fingers in purposeful and meaningful ways.

Clearly, we are created to communicate.  That toddler, not yet possessing even crude motor skills like catching a ball, can already recognize the complex distinctions between nouns and verbs.  Teaching the child the names of things, chatting with and reading to a child are indispensable steps in educating for communication.  There is a vast difference in the number of words to which small children are exposed in diligent homes and indifferent ones.  Studies at the University of Kansas and other institutions show that there is a direct correlation between the number of words a toddler hears and learns and her subsequent academic achievement.  By the age of three, children of diligent  parents hear  millions of words more than children of indifferent parents.   In America there is a disturbing correlation between rise in juvenile crime and the deterioration in English language education in the nation’s public schools.

Fluency in speech is closely connected to an ability to write. Employers, military induction officers and social workers confirm that increasing numbers of young adults are incapable of writing down their thoughts coherently.  Most of these also fail to comprehend simple written instructions.  This is obviously a huge social problem.  Whether creating a business plan, solving a family crisis or constructing an international treaty to avoid war, the first thing always is to express in words the problem you’re trying to solve.  It is almost impossible to find the solution if you haven’t transformed the problem from feelings to words.

Furthermore, communication and conversation lead to collaboration and cooperation which lead to creativity.  In other words, almost no major challenges are successfully overcome by any one person acting entirely alone.  Talk and conversation are the tools of this cooperation.  Depriving our children of the tools of communication is to sentence them to needlessly underachieving lives at best and perhaps to criminality and worse.

This is why ancient Jewish wisdom regularly refers to God having achieved all of Creation by means of statements, the first of which was, “Let there be light.”

King David elaborates on this when he says:

By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made, and with the breath of His mouth, all their host. 
(Psalms 33:6)

The Bible does not record, “And God made light”.  It reports that God used words to create.  In the same way today, a budding entrepreneur doesn’t tell people, “I feel like creating a business.”  Instead he shows a written business plan in which words specify the story.

When a goal or ambition gets written down it starts coming to life.  Attaching times and deadlines then transforms a mere dream into a plan.  Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that God gave man the power of words and speech in the seventh verse of chapter two in Genesis because He wants us to connect, communicate, collaborate, and create.  A few verses later, God creates another human with whom Adam could communicate and ultimately create.

People who have been handicapped by inadequate instruction in words very understandably feel frustration.  Maybe even you are not fulfilling your ultimate potential of communication and collaboration.  Once we are adults, it is our own responsibility to correct any deficiencies from our upbringing. Each of us can improve our ability to use words to connect and communicate by making a deliberate effort to improve fluency and vocabulary.

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We are tidying up our warehouse and have found a number of copies of Noah Alper’s book, Business Mensch: Timeless Wisdom for Today’s Entrepreneur that have damaged covers or crinkled insides. While they last, we are making them available for $5 each. Amortize the shipping cost by adding Dear Rabbi and Susan: 101 Real-life Ask the Rabbi Questions, on sale now for only  $9.99. For an added bonus, use both books to spark conversation and articulate ideas, improving your own fluency in the process.

On Sale

Only $5 apiece while they last

Where Did I Hear That?

April 18th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

“When we were young, we were taught again and again that we shouldn’t get pregnant. Now we can’t!”

That plaintive wail from a childless 43 year-old woman caught my attention. Holly Finn describes the mortification and expense of countless in-vitro-fertilization procedures she endured. A little cashmere baby sweater goes everywhere with her; she bought it years earlier for the baby she hoped she’d one day have. Now Holly weeps about having the sweater but not the child. Her most excruciating experiences are being in the company of other women chattering happily about their children, or with men, most of whom simply don’t get how she feels.

Holly’s sad situation echoes the Biblical account of Rachel. When Leah repeatedly gives birth, the childless Rachel cries out in agony to her husband:

…give me children otherwise I’m as good as dead.
(Genesis 30:1)


Say Little and Lead Much

March 21st, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

Leaders enjoy many benefits.  People seen as leaders get promoted and opportunities come their way.  Parents whose children respect them as leaders have more functional families.   But how do you begin the process of getting others to see you as a leader?

We have all seen leadership in action.  Perhaps one participant at a meeting emerges as the clear leader of the group.  Or people listen more attentively to one person than to another.  Groups coalesce around the one individual who is regarded as more authoritative than anyone else.

I’m sure you’ve seen parents who enjoy such excellent rapport with their children that obedience is almost automatic.  It is clear that the children view the parents as leaders.  Authentic leadership skills that are effective in a work environment are also effective in a family or social environment.  We just need to know what these skills are.


You’ll Pardon Me, I Hope

September 22nd, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 3 comments

You’ll pardon me, but in just the last few days, I have heard the word ‘crap’ used in public as a synonym for feces by the host of a popular television show, by an official of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and by a CNN news anchor, to name just three.  I am not going to squander your time bemoaning the coarsening of the culture; we all know it is happening.  Many of us understand why.

And it is not only the word ‘crap’.  There is another four letter synonym for excrement which is just as popular though the self-anointed cultural elites have ridiculously decreed that ‘crap’ can be used on America’s airwaves but not the alternative word for the same human byproduct.  Expect that to change soon.

Why this particular form of human waste?  Why don’t people say, “He needs the ear-wax beaten out of him”? Or, how about, “The breaching whale scared the saliva out of the kayaker”?  Or why not, “I’ve never heard anyone speaking such nasal mucus”?  I have never heard any driver say, “Oh urine! I took a wrong turn!”  Of all human body waste, why does only excrement enjoy such common usage in ordinary conversation today?


Glossophobia – originally posted July 9, 2009

March 6th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

According to the intensive .16 second long research I just did on the web, we humans are full of phobias. Ranking relatively high – though quite below fear of spiders – is glossophobia, fear of public speaking.

In general, this one passed me by. While I certainly get nervous before teaching a class or giving a public address, I love speaking before a group. And so it came about that when my husband was going to miss his weekly radio show (KSFO, Sundays 1-4) because they have not yet rigged commercial airplanes to accommodate traveling hosts, I agreed to fill in for him. After all, how hard could it be to chatter for three hours? My daughters and I have been known to keep conversations going for far longer than that, often with four or five of us chiming in at the same moment. (This has the side effect of terrifying young husbands who have grown up with only one sister.)

For anyone who is thinking of a career in radio, let me share some hard earned wisdom. When you are talking into a studio microphone, the microphone doesn’t smile, nod its head or respond in any other way. There is zero immediate feedback telling you whether you are being witty and wise or interminably dull and dim-witted. This is most unnerving.

Despite having diligently prepared my opening remarks and having timed them to get me to the first commercial break, I was acutely uncomfortable. For all I knew, I could just as well be reciting Longfellow ballads into the air and indeed might be reduced to doing so by the third hour.

Fortunately, just after the first break the lines began to ring with callers commenting on my thoughts. You can be quite sure that I was heaping blessings on their heads and getting a particular thrill from the homeschooling mom who is a Musings reader, at the same time that I was worrying if the calls would continue. All in all, the three hours were a combination of enjoyable stretches punctuated by moments of terror.

Since marrying my husband, I have done innumerable new and unusual things. Whether it was crossing the Pacific in a sailboat or sitting in Barbra Streisand’s house while she asked my opinion of a new song, or eating a kosher meal in Arkansas with Governor and Mrs. Huckabee, my life has taken some unanticipated paths. Who knew that even something that I thought I knew how to do, like talking, would get a different and out of the ordinary twist?