Lesson 5: 10 ways to have a better conversation

Damn my big mouth! That’s how I feel after every interview or any other social event. I always have this perception that I talked too much and people may perceive me in a negative manner.

So I listened to this Ted Tv titled as stated in the heading in my attempt to improve my communication skills.

So here are the tips to listen and talk to people:

  1. Don’t multi task:
    • Be present and be in the moment
  2. Don’t pontificate: 
    • Enter a conversation assuming you have something to learn
    • Set aside your personal opinions, and you will slowly open up your mind to your listeners
  3. Use open ended questions (Who, What, Why, Where, How)
  4. Go with the flow
    • Thoughts come to your mind and let it go out your mind
  5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know
    • Be accountable for what you know, expert on, and what you don’t know
  6. Don’t equate your experience with others:
    • Eg: someone talks about loss of a family member, you don’t talk about your bad day at work (It’s not the same)
    • It’s not about you, its about the other party
  7. Don’t repeat yourself, don’t rephrase your points
  8.  Stay out of the weeds
    • People don’t care about the details in your head that you forget to tell them
    • They care about you, what you have in common
  9. ***Listen
    • The most important skill to master
  10. Be brief
    • Be interested to listen
    • Keep your mind open and be prepared to be amazed

So I am going to try these techniques and try to talk to people. I might try a couple of these for my next interviews as well. Hopefully, I won’t set myself up for failure. Fingers crossed!

Lesson 4: How to act quickly without sacrificing critical thinking

Often enough, we get into situations where we should act quickly. If we were too slow to respond, we may be entangled into nasty situations where we get consumed or get caught off guard. If we are too fast, we may be perceived as micromanaging or end up making short term decisions.

How do we balance out both?

According to Jesse Sostrin, we all have reflective urgency. It is defined as the ability to bring conscious, rapid reflection to the priorities of the moment — to align your best thinking with the swiftest course of action.

Step 1: Diagnose your urgency trap:

For a start, we need to set time aside for thinking. I do that three times daily. When I wake up, before lunch and before I leave the office. It may be counterproductive if we don’t know what will limit the quality thinking time. One should recognize the habitual, conscious, counterproductive ways that will prevent us from making us of this dedicated and delicate time.  For instance, attending a meeting unprepared or multi-tasking.

When unsure, ask yourself this question, “When the demands I face increase and my capacity is stretched thin, a counterproductive habit I have is….”

Step 2: Bring focus to the right priorities

Start with things you must focus on, rather than tempted/ wanted to work on…

Step 3: Avoid extreme tilts

Do not treat every situation the same. Evaluate the situation and decide if you need to turn down or increase the level of urgency or reflection. Evaluate if you require tactical action or dynamic thinking more and then allocate time for it.

Anyone can use these three techniques, for work, public speaking and so on. When you combine these micro reflections with a heightened sense of urgency, your decisiveness and speed to impact will not be at the mercy of the counterproductive habits and unconscious oversights that occur when you act without your best thinking.


Lesson 3: How to change your brain for good

We all have our ups and downs in life and that often require us to be mindful of what we feel and we will need to motivate ourselves.

There are four steps we can follow to change our brain for the greater good.

I  do hope that by doing this, we will become more focused and certainly reduce the chances of us getting Alzheimer’s disease, seizures, strokes etc.

So here are the four steps to change our brains:

  1. Relabel
    1. Put a label on experiences that are going away from long term values
    2. I am anxious: ‘I am getting anxious now’
    3. Acknowledge your feelings and emotions
  2. Reframe
    1. Use mindful awareness
      1. Process your thoughts into grey instead of black or white
      2.  Know when its good thoughts and when they are bad (cognitive distortion)
    2. Emotional reasoning: Relabel and reframe: figure it out reality versus emotions
  3. Refocus:
    1. Focus your attention in the moment:
      1. Do something constructive using control approach
      2. Divert your attention to something constructive
      3. That’s when you rewire your brain
  4. Revalue
    1. Comes easily when you do the first three regularly
    2. Pattern the first three into your daily life and revalue comes easily
    3. Becomes a positive feedback for your brain to react after

I’m going to try these techniques as I tend to overthink too much at times and often enough, my thoughts do go random.

Lesson 2: How to speak so people want to listen

Morning all and only. I am starting my day by listening to a couple of ted tv videos and pilates.

As I  was listening to Julian Treasure, I learnt the few things about our own unique voices.

There are seven deadly sins of speaking and we should avoid it as much as possible.

  1. Gossip
  2. Judging
  3. Negativity
  4. Complaining
  5. Excuses
  6. Lying
  7. Dogmatism

Four foundations of speaking that we can use to make our speech more powerful. The speaker used the acronym of ‘HAIL’.  The definition is ‘to greet or acclaim enthusiastically’.

  1. H – Honesty
    • Be clear and straight
  2. – Be authentic
    • Be yourself
  3. I – Integrity:
    • Be your word
  4. – Love
    • Wish them well
    • Don’t judge them

A few techniques we can use for speaking will be:

  1. Register your voice
    • Voice from the chest for power and authority
  2. Timbre
    • The way your voice feels
    • We prefer voices that are rich, smooth and warm
  3. Prosody
    • Voice variety not monotone
    • Repetitive prosody (every sentence ends like a question)
    • Break the habit
    • Pace
      • Fast, slow
      • Silence
  4. Pitch
  5. Volume

Do voice exercises before any speech does help too!

Remember that powerful speaking often leads to conscious listening in an environment that is fit for purpose. Create sounds consciously will eventually lead to sounds being received consciously and that will create an awesome environment for sounds and people will reach an understanding of what you are trying to address. That is the end goal of any speech.



Lesson 1: Structure of Public Speaking

I was listening to a talk on Ted.

Chris Anderson mentioned these four methods to structure your talk:

  1. Start with an idea and build it in the thoughts of your audience
    • Communicate your idea to others
    • Show your perspectives, doesn’t matter if they are different from others, shaping their actions between now and future
    • Ideas that are powerful will shape human culture
  2. Give people a reason to care
    • Stir their curiosity by asking intriguing provocative questions, use language devices
    • Ask lots of why??
    • Reveal the disconnection in their views and they will be able to connect with you
  3. Build your idea in small components using concepts that your audience already understands
    • Start with what the audience knows or understands
    • Use analogy for audience to understand easily (AH HA moment)
    • Test your thoughts with trusted friends and see what they are confused about and improve from there on
  4. Make your idea worth sharing
    • Who does this idea benefit?
      • Audience
      • Does it inspire someone to do something differently?

Here are the four tips that will help one to structure their speech whether it’s meant for presentation, speeches etc. Give this a shot and see how people react to it. I hope this helps you to achieve your goals for whatever speech you are doing for.

Review on Toastmasters Project 10: The Journey

I did my Capstone Project 10 for Toastmasters Competent Communicator on 19th May 2017.

I believed this was my best project by far, not just because I won the ‘Best Prepared Speech’ for the night but also because I  felt was speaking from the heart. It was such a coincidence that my evaluator was a writer himself so he understood my perspective and I am glad I did not set myself up for failure.

The feedback given was that I should have informed the host that that I require a change of environmental settings i:e: pretending we were all at a book signing ceremony.

I was caught trying to recall my script along the way and I should have avoided that. I should have used lesser filter words and made more eye contact. I will probably need to learn to control my nervousness and figure out a way to remember the flow of my speeches and learn how to ‘think fast, talk smart’ after this.

So basically, the setting was a book signing event and I got a printout saying ‘Recipes of Life by Farah Saleh’ and wrapped it around a book. I also had slides showing reviews on the book with my photos.

Before I jumped into the various ratings, let me jot down some other feedback on other P10 speeches for reference’s sake.

To inspire, always ensure the following:

  • I – Intention must be clear
  • T – Methods to inspire/ personal stories
  • M – Methods to inspire the audience / Consider using personal stories if any (like an analogy)
  • A –  Audience: Know your audience and know how to convince/ inspire/ empower them

Other things to take note of include:

  • Have a data/ source of info for persuasion
  • Use of dialogues does have to add creativity
  • Do not use powerpoint slides for speeches between 5-7mins unless for a quick one
  • Use language devices for call to action

Here are the ratings for my speech:

  1. Was the speech relevant to the occasion selected?
    • Excellent
    • The topic was most relevant for the project
  2. Did the speaker understand and express the feelings and needs for the audience?
    • Excellent
    • The speaker was emphatic to express the various emotions and disposition.
  3. Was the speaker forceful, confident and positive?
    • Speaker was confident and convincing.
  4. Did the speaker effectively use stories, anecdotes, and/or quotes to help to convey his or her message?
    • Excellent
    • Speaker used anecdotes, examples and personal stories effectively
  5. Did the speaker’s words convey strong, vivid mental images?
    • Excellent
  6. Did the speaker’s use of body language enhance his/ her message ?
    • Speaker was poised and confidently portrayed the appropriate gestures and postures to motivate the audience to start writing.
  7. Did the speech uplift the audience and motivate them as the speaker intended?
    • Excellent
  8. What could have the speaker done differently to make the speech more effective?
    • Perhaps the speaker could have used the visual aids more effectively, show them bit by bit to ensure the audience is not ahead of the speaker.
    • Try not to worry about phrases that are memorised (Skip them if need to)
  9. What did you like about the speech?
    • The speaker’s convincing appeal to get the audience to start writing through her honest narrative of her own experiences, the highs and the frustrations and her eventual self- fulfillment. The speaker used the timing effectively!

So I have completed my Competent Communicator’s module. I do plan to pursue the other modules as well. I will take a couple of months off to improve on what is lacking here, maybe share them here too. Of course, I am grateful for all the support that has been given to me as well.




Toastmaster Project 10: The Journey

Good evening, Ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank each and every one of you for making time to attend my book signing in Singapore.  It’s great to be back here after being away in New York for three years since 2017.

The book that I have written, called ‘Recipes of life’ has won a couple of book awards – One as a New York bestselling author and one as a self-published author. Let’s look at some of the reviews.

It took me 10 years to get to where I am now. The reason why I started writing was because I wanted to document down summaries of the self-development books that I have read. Then I found WordPress, an online community where bloggers write and upload their works for free. After a few posts, I was getting loads of comments. The insecurities I was working through were resonating with strangers online. That was how powerful the online community is! We support one another because we believe!

Ladies and gentlemen, I have struggled to make a difference. I have felt appalled whenever I thought of the civilized world not needing what I have to offer. I have been frustrated by people’s apathy and my own inability to communicate the importance of something that matters to me.

My fellow toastmasters, writing is a fulfilling yet a very lonely process. It’s very isolating because you’re just by yourself. You have to be very self-motivated and get the work done and sometimes you just don’t, and that’s bad.

But what I have also learned, that with resounding hope, my writing does make a difference. There were occasions whereby I had readers commenting that my writings do relate to them and that I should write more.

That little push, however small was enough a catalyst, a spark that propelled and fuelled me to write my own book. I started to write about my own life experiences and came out with a framework on how we can motivate ourselves and fight on. I wrote to multiple publishing companies but received rejections one after another. It felt like I was in high school back again trying to find a date for prom. Hence, I decided to publish my own book. I printed twenty copies and started to distribute them to guests that I met during my university alumni events. I also made the craziest but by far my smartest decision in 2017 to move to New York, the land where the world’s best writers live and thrive.

My dear friends, to me, the self-promotion part is the most difficult thing I had to do (well apart from doing my own laundry and learning to cook every single day. Oh god, I missed my mum) as I was saying, the most difficult part was self-promoting myself, and my book, to get my name out there. Constantly having to go on social media and meeting representatives from publishing companies to talk about myself is very embarrassing experience. I feel so ashamed saying, “Please, read my book!”

You know the feeling of that moment between action and consequence, eternal and fleeting. It’s when whatever you did has occurred but the reaction is yet to come. The seed of embarrassment gets wedged inside me ready to blossom red upon your cheeks.  That experience, ladies and gentlemen, was my personal hall of shame. I have never thought in my entire life, that I had to do a sales pitch.

I thought I was done after I self- published my book. I was so wrong. One fateful day, a representative from a publishing company called to tell me that my book was the most googled book online and she encouraged me to enter the competition ‘Writers Digest Self Published book awards’. I have won two awards since then.

But the most important lesson that I have learnt is that all is matters are the words you write. Nothing else. When you do your thing, it doesn’t matter (and it shouldn’t) what others are going to think about it. You should stop worrying whether have something to say or if people will read it or people will like your work. But it’s about saying in your voice. And that is something we all have.

My dear friends, I urge you to write because its liberating. I persuade you to write because you are unique and I want you to write because no other person who came before you or who will come after you will ever, ever be able to do it in quite the same way that you can.

As Winston Churchill once said, we make a living by what we earn, but we make a life by what we give.”

Take a leap of faith and start writing, wherever you are, tonight. Thank you.


Review on Toastmasters Project 9: Pen it down!

I did my Project 9 on 21st April 2017.

I did not do very well for this project and my mentors and evaluators felt that I did not quite meet the objectives. I have repeated this project a couple of times but still not much of improvements.

The feedback given was the following:

  • There was just too many main topics. I should have focused on three main points and developed from there
  • Not much ‘good vocabulary’ such as rhetorical devices used
  • Body language does not portray much power
  • Vocal variety does not convince others to start writing

Once I am done with Project 10, I will be taking a couple of months off to focus a little bit more on writing, perhaps writing an article or two on Business Intelligence and a couple more reviews on self development books.

At the same time, I would like to focus more on Emotional Intelligence and improve the way I present myself. That way, I will be better prepared for Advanced Toastmasters modules and communicate better with others and at work!

Toastmasters Project 9: Pen it down!

Can you imagine a life where creativity is considered a shameful activity that should be done behind closed doors? Can you imagine a world where self-expression is viewed as irrational, emotional and often frowned upon?

Ladies and gentlemen, writing is  part of our everyday life. At its most basic, writing is a way of communication. It is the one inalienable characteristic of writing itself, whether you’re communicating with a colleague or friend or you’re communicating with yourself – through a to do list, for instance.

Aside from the fact that writing is an inescapable part of everyday life, there are many good reasons you should make a good session of writing part of your daily routine, even if it’s just a few hundred words. You don’t have to be a pro to reap the benefits of creating the written word.

Facts on writing:

  • Research by Laura King mentioned that Writing and happiness are correlated:
    • Expressive writing such as jotting down your emotions and goals has therapeutic effects such as improved mood, reduced stress levels for those who write regularly
  • Research by Adam Grant mentioned that Writing helps one to cope with trauma and bad times better:
    • Sometimes we are unable to verbally communicate our trauma or emotions, and it is much easier to write
    • Engineers were retrenched and 52% of them who wrote who reemployed full time in 8 months as compared to 19% of those who don’t

When I first started out,

  • I was afraid of people judging me, not so much of strangers, but of families and friends if they were to read my blog
  • I was afraid of writing unworthy stories, as language was not my cup of tea

But I chose to write anyway and I have been writing summaries on self development books. A couple of times I have got comments saying that my writings help readers who don’t have the time to read and apparently, a couple of my former bosses came across my blog and encouraged me to increase on the quantity. It’s little things like that will push you on and go a long way.

I cant guarantee you will get your next best gig or if you can make money from your writing, but at least you get the following benefits:

  • Knowing what you want
    • Making it clear on what outcome you want to achieve from a situation, activity or goal
  • Develop your analytical skills
    • Working through your problems with a piece of paper encourages you think through logical and creative ways
    • People tend to react to problems rather than responding to it, but if you’re used to solving them by processing each component of the problem in writing, you’ll develop a better approach and skillset.
    • You’ll at least pause to think through the situation before hitting the panic button next time something comes up!
  • Meeting yourself all over again
    • Life is so fast paced that its easy to lose yourself
    • By letting words flow out of your brain unedited can introduce you to a part of yourself you’d been censoring from yourself to cope with everyday life.

Discontentment, disillusionment, and unhappiness often come from forgetting why we’re doing something (for instance, on a different track, not having a good reason for living a certain way) and it is important to keep those simple reasons at the forefront of your mind or you run the risk of letting your life becoming mundane.

It’s not only important to remind yourself of your motives for your current actions; it’s important to monitor your actions to see if they are aligned with your life goals or if there is a need to change them if needed. Sometimes, the only way to keep such a close monitor on your actions and goals is to write about them every day.

Friends, as William Faulkner said ‘Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.’