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Blogs April 2004

April 25, 2004

An update about Jennifer Hahn, a member of my Toastmasters club who won the Division G contest last month. (More info) She has gone on to win the Founder's District International Speech Contest. She competed against the best speakers in Orange County and eastern Los Angeles County.

She now goes on to compete in the Region II speech contest against the district winners throughout the western United States. If she wins there, she will compete in the World Championship of Speaking at the Toastmasters International Conference in Reno, Nevada.

Congratulations to Jennifer! I hope all of you also work towards your goals.

April 17, 2004

It's hard to believe that almost 20 years have passed since the Olympics were here in Los Angeles. One of the stars of those games was Mary Lou Retton, who won the women's all-around gymnastics gold medal. I've been reading her 2000 book, Gateways to Happiness. (More info) She makes an observation about communications that scores a 10 with me:

"If relationships are one of the gateways to happiness, then it's safe to say that communication is the gateway to all of our relationships. Communications is the means by which the person sitting next to you at someone else's dinner table goes from being a complete stranger to, over time, a cherished friend. It's how we share our secrets, hopes, and frustrations, and how we indicate our deep love for one another. If used improperly, however, it can also be the force that generates bad feeling and drives us apart. When communication breaks down, relationships are usually quick to follow. It is only through learning to communicate in a positive and productive way that we can make the most of our myriad relationships and ensure that we never lose the people we care about due to an angry outburst or unspoken misunderstanding."

She later points out that how we communicate is as vital as making the effort to communicate. We need to express ourselves with honesty, sensitivity, encouragement, and when necessary, restraint. We must also remember that listening is a vital part of communication.

These are some excellent lessons from someone who has become as great a communicator as she was a gymnast.

April 7, 2004

CNN.com recently posted an article about the problems with using humor to international audiences. (More info) In short, if you're thinking about opening your presentation to a group of Chinese businesspeople with a joke, think twice.

There are two things you must remember: 1. Not everyone in the world laughs at the same things. 2. Not everyone appreciates a joke. Humor, if you use it at all, has to fit the audience and your speech. If you have any doubts about whether humor is appropriate, don't use it. 

For more tips on using humor in speeches, visit my communication tips. (More info)

April 4, 2004

As a special Passover public service to the Arab media, here are the ingredients of matzah:

  • Flour

  • Water

Note that there is no blood of any kind in matzah. Not Hugh of Lincoln's. Not Sheikh Yassin's. None. You can get egg or onion flavor.

The situation in the Middle East is complex and tragic enough without having to resort to centuries-old racist falsehoods. Criticize the Israeli government as much as you want and there is plenty to criticize. Demonizing the Jewish people as a whole will not help the Palestinians. It stokes the hatred that hurls the whole Middle East Jews and Arabs alike towards mutual devastation.

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