Ways to cultivate your vocabulary. These days, there are lots of tools to do this. There’s a screen saver that introduces you to new words. There are apps that help you expand your word set. Reading of course helps, and when you come across a word that you don’t know, look it up write it down or ask Siri or Google what it means. Read thoughtful pieces by people that have large vocabularies. William Buckley was a great role model for this, God rest his perspicacious soul.
It may also help to learn how words are formed. I took Latin, so I know the basis for a lot of our language, which helps. But if you remember your English lessons or studying for the SAT you might recall that words are made up of parts, which can be transfixed to one another.
Another way might be to read poetry. Poetry may not be for everyone, but give it a chance, and once you realize its function and how to read it as intended, it can be pleasurable. A lot of people become frustrated by poetry, which is understandable. If you don’t approach it with an open mind and with the right toolset, you won’t get anywhere. Keep a dictionary handy, or a way to look up the various meanings of words. Many words have different meanings, and used jointly, is what builds context and weaves a tapestry of art that becomes poetry. You can see what the author is trying to express, and use your mind to extrapolate and try each meaning of every word to see what works best. It takes time and patience, as does everything that’s worthwhile in life.
Who do you think inspires people? Tony Robbins? Yes. Matt Foley? No. Pay attention to the words they use and how they use them to move people in directions. You may think they’re corny, but they are successful, and powerful speakers, and have the credibility and bank accounts to prove it. If you hate or love Donald Trump, he wrote the Art of the Deal, which was a best seller. He knows how to persuade people. Obviously enough to become our President. And he uses his skills of persuasion to deal with other world leaders. You may abhor him, but he didn’t get to where he is by not being able to influence people.
Who persuades you? Why? Try to figure out what the impetus is they use that gets you going. Grab onto it and harness it and put it in your toolbox.
Engage in debate
Debate is different than arguing. And it’s vastly different than getting into a war with a troll on Twitter. Debate uses logic and engages different perspectives.
Learn human behavior/psychology
Know thy enemy. Learn what makes people tick and how to recognize signals that they’re giving, whether calculated or cluelessly. The clueless signals are the ones that you want o pounce on. Or at least hold onto for the perfect moment to address. There’s nothing like going back and forth in debate, and then pulling a rabbit out of your hat that you’ve been saving.
There are some good resources online that delve into human behavior, which is dynamic and variable, to say the least. It’s one of the hardest things to prepare for because you just never know what some other person is capable of.
But if you can figure out the other person’s true motive, it’s an asset for you. They may not state what they really want, and being able to read between the lines can really help when you’re trying to persuade someone.
This may seem obvious, especially if you’re reading this because you’re clearly trying to educate yourself. But there are, of course, good ways and bad ways to go about it. Some may lead to a lot of wasted time, while others may pay dividends.
When I began learning design I tried to learn Adobe Premiere Pro, which is a video editing application that is super-powerful. Of course, it could do what I needed and wanted but it is very complex and to learn it back when I wanted was a huge endeavor. Lynda courses and YouTube and searching for professionals that had tips was all I did, and I wasted a huge amount of time on that. Learn to recognize when you’re escalating a commitment for no good reason and then stop it. Sometimes it’s hard to do. Taking a step back helps sometimes, or bouncing what you’re doing off a friend to see what they think may help. But don’t waste your resources going down the wrong hole. It’s sometimes easy to do.
There are a lot of good writing resources online, such as this article on how to be confident in your writing. I have a repository of writing resources that I find useful to refer to from time to time on my website.
Here’s an article from HBR on how to change someone’s mind: Change their mind!
Here’s a video that discusses how to change someone’s mind:
He correctly advises not to apply more pressure to make someone change their mind. It doesn’t work that way. You have to understand.
Learning rhetoric isn’t just for politicians and philosophers. It’s a powerful thing, done correctly. Some people, like lawyers and politicians, use it for evil a lot. But it also can be used for good, or at least to get what you want. One of my favorites is “Let me answer that question by asking you this:”
While you’re at it, it might pay off to learn a bit about actual logic and how it’s formed. In order to earn my BA in English, I had to take both inductive and deductive logic. I also took a course in philosophy so I know how to state a theorem and then defend it. I studied Socrates and Plato and formed a foundation for rhetoric from there. Which, incidentally, is all a Ph.D. provides and nothing more, and doesn’t even provide any depth of philosophy as a subject, remarkably. Except for the pompous air and distorted sense of self-worth that comes with the ridiculous title of “Doctor.” I find it to be a grandiose undertaking that is nothing more than jumping through a bunch of silly hoops to join a club of insecure, narrow-minded kids who never wanted to leave the comforts of school.
Learn to write well
grammar, style, tone, audience, length
Strunk & White
What works, what doesn’t
Timing, reasoning, logic
Grammarly is a great tool and should be used sparingly, not as a crutch. It keeps getting better and better with AI, and really is a wonderful tool. But use it at your own risk, of course. Just don’t rely on it for everything is all I’m saying. It should be your backup.
I use a Thesaurus all the time to find different words than the one I want to use for whatever reason. They’re good for expanding your vocabulary, and even finding good domain names and search terms for SEO, I’ve found. A thesaurus is indispensable.
Of course Google. Google search is very powerful if you know the tricks. Most people don’t utilize Google as much as they can.
ProWriting Aid Addendum
As I promised earlier, here is a list of words that can change the flow of communication in some way. That’s their power. It’ not that they end a debate. It’s that they cause a shift in which way things go, if used properly.
Because: Presenting a reason why people should do something can trigger an automatic response. Even if the reason is spurious.
8 Emotional Power Words:
Also, here are some weak works that should be handled by a Thesaurus if you don’t know the best term:
Also published on Medium.