Showing posts with label Speech. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Speech. Show all posts

August 7, 2019

Ocean of Words

I really like this phrase from a book that I'm reading called "Like Dreamers."
An ocean of words and a desert of ideas.

Too often, we hear people who like to hear themselves talk, think very highly of themselves, show off, or just spout away. 

And while they say a lot...

There may not be a lot there. 

New ideas, thoughts, ways of looking at things, innovation, creativity, outside the box thinking--that's like a desert!

In Yiddish (and it's always funnier in Yiddish), we say:
A big, big mouth, and a tiny, tiny head.

Similarly, in Hebrew, there is phrase that translates to:
Say a little, and do a lot. 

Sometimes, the smartest people are the ones who use their words wisely, strategically, with depth and meaning, and when they really have something to say.

It's at that time that you better be listening.  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 7, 2019

Bar Mitzvah Speech Page 3

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Bar Mitzvah Speech Page 3."
I wondered to myself how come this bar mitzvah boy didn’t end his speech with the traditional thank you to: my loving mother and father, my dear grandparents, my annoying brothers and sisters, and all my terrific uncle and aunts who came from Israel, Europe, and Canada to be with me here on this special day? There was none of that, and I was puzzled — how can he not thank everyone who made this day possible?
This was a true lesson about always being prepared and resilient, because that is what true empowerment is all about. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 18, 2018

Never Say Anything

So I overhear this conversation...

Woman:  "Never say never and never say always."

Man: "Well then what should I say?"

Woman: "Just keep your mouth shut!"

Yeah, that's one for the books.

Anyway, thinking about this a little more--there is an exception to every rule. 

Never say never is itself violating this rule of thumb. 

Hence one conclusion perhaps is that many rules are so stupid to begin with! :-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 7, 2018

Power of Speech

I loved this magnet on this wonderful old Jewish ladies refrigerator who lives in our community.
"If you have nothing good to say...
Say nothing."
I remember we used to talk about this saying in my house growing up too. 

It is a famous teaching from the holy Chofetz Chaim.

I remember as a bar-mitzvah boy, someone in our community in Riverdale, NY gave me a set of the Chofetz Chaim's books.

And I enjoyed reading from them daily about always being careful with how you use your words:

- Not to hurt anyone.

- Not to speak bad about anyone (i.e. Lashon Hara)

- But rather to use words pointedly and always for the good. 

Kind words.

Gentle words.

Complimentary words.

Words of love and caring. 

Holy words. 

The Chofetz Chaim seemed to have an endless number of wonderful stories to demonstrate the power of speech and the importance of using it for the good. 

The old saying of "The pen is mightier than the sword," can be used replacing the pen with the tongue and power of speech in general. 

Words can cut someone like a knife and even kill or words can create a tremendous healing when it's full of love and caring for others. 

Actions speak louder than words, but words can speak and perform volumes in the eternal fight of good over evil. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 3, 2016

Relationships Matter Most

So if I have only learned one thing from work and office politics...it is that relationships matter to results!

And not only that they matter, but that they matter the most. 

Results are great and important; however if they come at the expense of relationships or it's a "burn the bridges" type deal--then the results are not just tainted, but perhaps will be doomed to fail anyway and all the more so. 

The way we treat others is paramount to what we do. 

G-d watches us--and He/She will judge us accordingly. 

Every interaction with others is a test for us. 

How do we speak to and act with another one of G-d's loving creations. 

Treating people well does not need to come at the expense of results--rather it is the secret sauce to getting results. 

This doesn't mean that you have to be liked or loved, but that you do the right thing and for the right reasons--great deeds come with truly best intentions. 

Integrity is not just a word--it is a life principle!

When you treat people badly--how do you think that impacts the office and the ultimate mission?

Success is people and product.

And life has a funny way about it with karma being ever present.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to PoYang) 
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October 14, 2015

Getting Your Message Out With Impact

There is an old Jewish parable about the body parts arguing which is most important. 

Each makes it's case that without that part, we just couldn't function. (No jokes here now!)

But in the end, the tongue that harnesses the power of speech demonstrates that it is most important, because it is through our words that we may live or die. 

- Say the right thing--something smart and influence the masses--and you can change or even save the world.

- Say the wrong thing--something stupid, inflammatory, and damaging--and it can literally mean your or someone else's life.

From an early age, we come to recognize that communication is so important to our success. 

Hey, I need a bottle or diaper changed...please!

Or answer the (interview) questions well, and you can land yourself in the best schools and jobs and even with the best ladies. :-)

Those that succeed with communication, can we make themselves and their positions heard, understood, and accepted.

What are some common communication strategies people employ?

Well as we've all learned, it's not always the one who is the boldest, screams the loudest, or repeats themselves the most that wins the argument--although at times, that too can work when force of debate, undeterred passion, and a little crazy can hammer the points home. 

Having the best laid out and most rationale argument--some people will rightfully be influenced by logic and common sense. 

Sincerity, integrity, honesty, and appealing to people's gut and emotions--this certainly goes a long way as many people are driven by their feelings as well as their instincts and genuine character assessment of others. 

Making people confront what scares the hell out of them--fear is a big motivator for action and everyone is afraid of something and usually many things. 

Oh, of course, the religious argument that "It's what G-d wants" and there will be fire and brimstone if you don't do it that way--well reward and punishment, heaven and hell, divine justice--that certainly will move masses. 

"The pen is mightier than the sword."

For those who can effectively harness the power of their speech and intellect, the sky is the limit. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 5, 2015

Oh, Change!

What an astute comic this is about change. 

"Who wants change?"  Everyone raises their hands enthusiastically.

"Who wants to change?" Everyone has their hands and eyes down. 

I suppose that is the difference between a nice lofty but esoteric concept, and something that actually impacts us and requires our attention, resources, and hard work. 

So what sounds good for the masses in a speech or article may sound entirely different when applied to the individual. 

Who me change?  No, that's someone else's problem!

- Global warming and environmental destruction--that's coming from China now.

- Russian aggression in Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltic States--it's a European issue.

- The Arab Spring with governments being overthrown and countries destabilizing into sectarian violence--that's for The Gulf States to worry about. 

- Higher taxes to pay for social entitlements--let the very rich pay for that.

- More security and surveillance for counter-terrorism initiatives--let's just surgically target the bad guys with those. 

Let's face it--we all have a lot on our plates already and we are suckers for a good talking to about some broadly-based, fantastical future that is better, happier, healthier, and more peaceful and prosperous.

But what do you have to give up or sacrifice for this future utopia or making progress towards it...ah, that's not a message we really want to get into now, is it?

Change...it's good for the next guy and gal; let me have my cake and eat it too. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to starecat.com)
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January 15, 2015

A Bunch Of Dummies

Took a photo from this children's book that someone left in the kosher Chinese restaurant--and it was sort of priceless.

There is a drawing of a ventriloquist with his puppet.

And it says, "All my friends are dummies,"

Often, it's tempting to think that we're so smart and "we're all that", but everyone else is just a dummy.

But we need to remember that in a way, really we're all just a bunch of dummies--now you didn't think I was going to say that, did you?

We are human, frail, mortal...and no one knows everything (hey, not even close).

My father used to joke saying, "I know nothing, and I can prove it!"

The truth is that all we really know is what G-d wants us to know; we say, what G-d permits our tongues to speak, and ultimately, we do, what G-d commands of us--there is no escaping it. 

In the big picture, we are but puppets and dummies in the hands of the omniscient creator.

For those with mega size egos (and usually nasty to match)...what G-d gives, he can easily take away, so don't be a real dummy. ;-)

(Source Photo: The Blumenthals)
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October 22, 2014

BIG Smile

This was a nice big smile on the base of a light pole. 

It's funny, aside from the smile, the mouth on this reminds me of something very smart my daughter, Rebecca told me the other day.


She said, "Don't let your tongue be bigger than your mouth."


In other words, don't be a big mouth, watch your words, speak carefully and thoughtfully. 


Some very good advice, probably for most of us out there. 


Mr. Light pole, I have a feeling you don't overdo it with this, and maybe that's why you're smiling so much. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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September 28, 2014

Asleep During The Speech

Short story...so this nice gentleman came from the house of worship to visit my dad in assisted living over the holidays.

The man talked about the speeches the clergy gave and how he only understood the basics, and the rest was sort of over his head (hey, I can definitely relate to that too...we all can). 

Perhaps, this points to how important it is to talk to the people (and not over the people)--making it relevant and stirring--although it's probably not easy to give a speech that resonates well with everyone. 

Anyway, there are good speeches, and then let's face it, there are speeches that could be better. 

Afterward, my dad and this man joked about how they've seen some people actually fall asleep during the clergy's speech...yes, this is obviously not very respectful, but sometimes people just doze off perhaps because it's hot inside with all the people, and they work so hard during the week that they just are relaxed and off they go.

My dad goes on to tell this joke:

The clergyman is giving a speech from the pulpit.

All of a sudden he notices this guy sleeping in one of the pews.

The clergy says to the man's neighbor sitting next to him, "Can you please wake him up?"

The worshipper responds, "You put him to sleep, you wake him up."

Then my dad let out a really nice, healthy laugh...it was good to hear (the other guy was laughing with him). 

On a side note, my dad said something else funny and insightful today:

"It's not easy getting old...it takes many years!" 

Amen to that.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 13, 2013

With The Courage Of The Maccabees


This is a phenomenal speech by Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu to the United Nations on October 1 2013. 

Some highlights from the speech:

- Iran is building underground uranium and plutonium enrichment facilities, using advanced centrifuges, conducting enrichments to near dangerous levels, and developing the ICBMs to deliver the nuclear weapons. 

- Iran threatens to wipe Israel off the map and chants death to Israel and America.

- Iran is smiling and negotiating, while positioning themselves for a dash over the nuclear finish line. 

- Iran is seeking to provide meaningless concessions and empty promises in return for sanctions relief.

- Nuclear weapons in the hands of the rogue regime of Iran makes nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger.

- Israel will never acquiesce to nuclear weapons in the hands of a rogue regime that threatens to wipe them off the map.

- If Israel is forced to act alone, it will and in so doing be safeguarding many other nations as well. 

- A bludgeoned Jewish people left for dead [after the Holocaust] will defend themselves with the courage of the Maccabees and not compromise on security. 

If you get a chance, it is worth watching the whole thing.
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October 14, 2013

Listening Beyond The Superficial

"I know you hear me, but are you listening to me?"

That's something one of my teachers used to say to the class back in yeshiva day school. 

The New York Times reports on a company that is pioneering the study of "Emotional Analytics."

Beyond Verbal is helping to "reach beyond the verbal" and listen for mood, attitude, and personality of the speaker. 

The point is that if you listen carefully, you can decode a person's mood--almost like a "human emotional genome."

Beyond Verbal can already identify "400 variations" of emotions not based on the words chosen, but rather based on the tone and frequency of use. 

For example, is the person telling you over and over again about a products problems--and are they getting annoyed that you aren't getting it!

Through a speech analytics engine that examines patterns of verbal use, we can classify whether a person is dissatisfied, escalating, and so on.

This can be extremely useful, for example, in call centers that service (perhaps some irate) customers.

Also, speech analytics could help us with uncovering deception from terrorists or moles in the government by detecting threatening or nervous emotions that the subjects are trying to hide. 

Potentially, this software could be helpful in our personal lives as well in terms of identifying the context and providing the E.I. (emotional intelligence) to understand what a person is r-e-a-l-l-y saying to us, rather than just perhaps the superficial words themselves. 

If we can not only hear someone else, but listen better and perceive more precisely what they are trying to tell us and what they are feeling, then we can problem-solve and resolve situations better and more quickly.

Software like this could definitely help keep me out of the doghouse at home. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 9, 2013

Think B4 U Speak

This was a sign hung in a local high school.

And thought this was pretty good. 

Think before you speak...

THINK = True + Helpful + Inspiring + Necessary + Kind

If it doesn't meet those criteria...shush, or in plain language--keep a lid on it! 

Remember, two ears and one mouth--so speak half as much as you listen. ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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July 6, 2012

TED For Everyone

The New Yorker (9 July 2012) has an article on TED Talks. 

TED stands for Technology/Entertainment/Design and is a conference venue for some of the most magnificent speakers.

Just looking at some of TED's "most popular this month"--turn to TED if you want to hear about:

- Information being collected about you on the web
- How through vulnerability, we can empathize, belong, and love
- Whether through evolution our kids will be different than us
- Ways to prepare for Alzheimer disease
- New ideas for cleaning up oil spills
- How schools kill creativity
- The talents and abilities of introverts
- How to inspire and be a great leader 


TED is literally a world of information and it is presented in a high quality way.

Almost anyone would be floored by the honor to present at TED.

Talking at TED means not only that you have something important to say, but that you can pull-off saying it the right way. 

What makes TED lectures great though (and viewed 800 million times so far) maybe also makes them more than a little sterile.

Firstly, the 4-day TED conference itself is only for special people--admission starts at $7,500 and no that does not include lodging and travel, and you have to have an "invitation"--posh posh--to attend. 

Then, the actual presentations are "closely governed"--speakers are carefully sought out and vetted, material that is counterintuitive is of interest, and "TED's eye for theatre...[with] vigilance about immersion and control" are a strong part of the showmanship. 

However, while on one hand, these things perhaps are a hugh part of the TED success--wash, rinse, repeat--on the other hand, it also makes for a feel that is very scripted, uniform, almost molded. 

The New Yorker article even describes how the speakers practice again and again--repeating their monologues hundreds of times and to whoever will listen. There is essentially nothing impromptu, ad-libbed, or in a sense real about the entertainment-aspect of what you are watching and listening to. 

While the information seems to always be great--the presentation with the speaker, sound, lights, slide show, audience shots, etc.--comes across like a row of identically-built houses in a development. 

Each "house" (or presentation in this case) may be filled with interesting people, things, and love, but on the outside, as one of my friends says--they are identical, so that coming home after a long day at work, you almost don't know at times which row house is yours anymore. 

If TED ever did a lecture on how they could improve TED. these would be some of my suggestions (and there is no gloss here):

- Open it to everyone--Restricting TED to invitation-only is elitist and maybe worse. Opening TED to more people to attend, learn, and enjoy--let's everyone have an opportunity to benefit--regardless of who you are or where you come from.

- Diversify the speakers--It is nice to have scientists and entrepreneurs and stars present at TED, but it would be even nicer to have regular, common people too. Everyone has a story to tell--whether or not you have a Ph.D. or run your own company. While it is great to learn from the "experts," it would be fascinating to hear from everyday people on their challenges and how they deal with them and overcome them or not. Just as an example, regularly, I see an incredible homeless lady on the street in DC--yes, well-dressed, talkative, polite--and I would want to hear how she ended up where she is and how she copes and survives her experiences on the street everyday. The point it that every person is a world onto themselves and worth hearing about--the key is how to get the experiences, the feelings, and the lessons learned. 

- Genuine, less scripted speeches--Part of good entertainment is making it real, but when it is just another (over-)rehearsed performance, the speakers seem almost robotic. Wouldn't it be wonderful to hear human beings talk in a more relaxed and yes, genuine-way about very important human topics of significance to us all? Right now, people crave information --heck, it's the information age and nice informative lectures are racking up the views, but at some point soon, people are going to want and expect more.

- Shake it up with the venue--TED is conservative extraordinaire. The one (or occasionally two or three) speakers on the stage, the dark background and spotlighted speaker, the PowerPoint or Prezi presentation, the dangling microphone, the opening applause, the slow and methodical speech--yes TED is "ideas that inspire," but it is also a venue that bores. Perhaps, if you are an avid conference attendee and like the routine, copy-cat set-ups, you feel at home in TED.  But why not let people talk here, there, and everywhere--let someone speak on the street, in a park, on a ship, or even parachuting off a plane.  How about someone on the International Space Station?  Or on the front lines in a major military engagement. People have a lot to say and where they say it--says a lot about them and adds to their message. A stage is a stage. Even a snake-oil salesman has a soapbox. 

Not to be confused with TED, there are TEDx events--"TED-like" that are organized by volunteers on a community-level, a "do-it-yourself TED" that is occurring at a "global rate of about five per day"--and these come closer to the open ideal, but still more can be done to make TED itself an organization where truly ideas come from all people, for all people.

While TED's brand is exclusive and valuable--perhaps more important is education that is valuable for the masses.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Juhan Sonin)

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March 30, 2012

Democracy Built On More Than Hoya

There is a funny joke that is timely for election season, and it goes something like this...

"It was election time and the politician decided to go out to the local reservation and try to get the Native American vote. 

They were all assembled in the Council Hall to hear the speech. 

The politician had worked up to his finale, and the crowd was getting more and more excited.   

'I promise better education opportunities for Native Americans!' The crowd went wild, shouting 'Hoya! Hoya!'.   

The  politician was a bit puzzled by the native word, but was encouraged by their enthusiasm. 'I promise gambling reforms to allow a Casino on the Reservation!'  'Hoya! Hoya!' cried the crowd, stomping their feet.   

'I promise more social reforms and job opportunities for Native Americans!' The crowd reached a frenzied pitch shouting 'Hoya!  Hoya!  Hoya!'   

After the speech, the Politician was touring the Reservation, and saw a tremendous herd of cattle. Since he was raised on a ranch, and knew a bit about cattle, he asked the Chief if he could get closer to take a look at the cattle. 

'Sure,' the Chief said, 'but be careful not to step in the hoya.'"  :-)

So when candidates get on their soapboxes and promises are being made on the left and on the right, you can only but wonder what is a promise that is sincere and will be kept and what is a promise that is for garnering votes and will be ignored. 

When the mic is unknowingly on and you hear something you weren't meant to hear, it is hard not to wonder about true intentions. 

The New York Times calls these "moments of political candor," while the Wall Street Journal (30 March 2012) calls it "moment[s] of political contempt."  

The Journal asks why we would not be told the truth about intentions with the implication that it is something that the candidates do not want us to know or that we would not approve of. 

Who are these candidates really? Does anyone really know when words are but bargaining chips for winning elections, rather than true commitments of the heart. 

It is scary, when the truth is obscured by empty words that change with the audience, and then votes end up based on false promises, vagaries, and disappointments.

When it comes to elections--Is the truth out there? Does it exist? 

People deserve candor, sincerity, and to know where candidates really stand on the issues, so they can vote for what and whom they really believe in.

Democracy is built on more than rolling hills and valleys filled with hoya--the truth is it's foundation. 

(Source Joke: here and Source Photo: here)


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December 21, 2011

Getting Control By Getting Back To Basics

I don't know if you've seen this--it's pretty popular, but I just really liked it:
“Beware of your thoughts, they become your words.
Beware of your words, they become your actions.
Beware of your actions, they become your habits.
Beware of your habits, they become your character.
Beware of your character, it becomes your destiny.”

To me it just makes so much sense--and it's how we can either get ourselves on a track for successful living or potentially into some pretty big trouble:

It starts with a simple thought--good or bad--light bulb goes on, bling!
Utter the thought (in word) and it begins to take form--blah, blah, blah.
Put that thought into action, and now--boy oh boy--what have you done?
Repeat once, twice, three times, and you have a habit--or in Jewish tradition a "Chazakah," something firm or established--think of it as, you're hooked.
Habits sure as heck breed character--and don't pretend otherwise...
And your character is your calling card with others and ultimately with G-d.

The good thing is that we have 5 steps to intervene--to gain control over where we are going with our lives.

And we can turn things around, at any time.
- Change your thinking.
- Clean up your mouthpiece.
- Act with kindness.
- Repeat only the things you want to ingrain.
- Guard your character through regular monitoring and course correction.

(Source Photo: here)

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December 12, 2011

Words Matter A Lot

This is a great video on the power of words, but also on the caring of one for another.

We can make a difference with our words!

Words can help and can hurt, they can pursuade and they can punish, but the most important thing is that we are responsible for how we use them.

While we can say we're sorry for hurtful words, they can never really be taken back (i.e. unspoken).

And just the opposite holds true as well--when we use words constructively, the impact for good reverberates.

I still hear the words of the most important people in my life guiding me, always.

Use your words with care, deference, ingenuity, and most important with kindness for others.


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June 11, 2011

The Internet: A Right and a Responsibility

Poverty_computer

Good Online is reporting (10 June 2011) that the “U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.”

According to the U.N. report, “The Internet has become a key means by which individuals exercise their right to freedom of expression.”

But as Good points out, this is not just a “third-world concern,” since even in America those without high-speed access cannot adequately perform certain functions “and that surely this affects their ability to get informed, educated, and employed.”

The U.N. is pushing for more protections for people to “assert themselves freely online,” but Good proposes that Internet access means more than just freedom of expression, but also the right to more public Wi-Fi access, better access to technology in libraries and I would assume in schools as well.

Interestingly enough, just on Thursday, Mayor Bloomberg of NYC and AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson announced that as part of NYC’s “Road Map for the Digital City,” they were launching a five-year initiative for free Wi-Fi service at 20 NYC parks—this is seen as a “critical developmental tool” for children, families, and communities.

The Internet stands alone as a technology that is now a “human right.” Radios, televisions, and telephones—none of these have that status. Yes, we have freedom of speech, but the technologies that enable them are not seen as a human right.

Similarly, access to the printing press (i.e. the technology for printing) itself is not a human right—rather, freedom of press (i.e. expression through print) is.

Do we not communicate and express ourselves over radio, TV, telephone, and other technologies as we do over the Internet? Do we not get information from them and through them? Do we not reach out with them to others both nationally and globally as we do over Net?

The answer to all of these is of course, we do.

So what is distinct about the Internet that the mere access to it is declared a human right?

I believe it is the fact that the Internet is the first technology whose very access enables the protection of all the other human rights, since it empowers EVERYONE to hear and speak from and to the masses about what is going in—whether in the tumultuous streets of the Arab Spring to the darkest prisons silencing political dissent.

While radio and television, in their time, were important in getting information and entertainment, but they were essentially unidirectional modes of communication and these can be manipulated by the powers that be. Similarly, the telephone while important to bridging communications over vast distances was for the most part constrained between two or at most a few individuals conversing. And publishing was limited to the realm of the professionals with printing presses.

In contrast, the Internet enables each person to become their own TV producer (think YouTube), radio announcer (think iTunes), telephone operator (think Skype) or publisher (think websites, blogs, wikis, etc.).

The Internet has put tremendous power into the hands of every individual. This is now a declared right. With that right, there is a tremendous responsibility to share information and collaborate with others for the benefit of all.

Of course, as a powerful tool of expression, the Internet can also be used malevolently to express hatred, racism, bigotry, etc. and to malign other people, their thoughts or opinions. Of course, it can also be used to steal, spy, hack, and otherwise disrupt normal civilization.

So we also all have the responsibility to behave appropriately, fairly, and with dignity to each other on the Internet.

While I applaud the U.N. for declaring the Internet a human right, I would like to see this expanded to include both a right and responsibility—this to me would be more balanced and beneficial to building not only access, but also giving and tolerance.

(Photo Source: WorldVisionReport.org)


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January 8, 2010

Speaking with Integrity

At work, there is often a lot more talking going on than just work issues. There is the office politics and the chatter about staff, colleagues, management, stakeholders, and so on.

“Oh by the way, have you heard what John said to Mary this week?”

Rumors easily get started about office indiscretions, “dumb mistakes,” bad decisions, injustices, nepotism, and even office romances.

Yeah, it goes on everyday.

Some of it is true, but more often than not, a lot is exaggerated, taken out of context, only one side of the story, or just plain B.S.—but for many, it makes for interesting conversation nonetheless.

Speech is a true gift. It enables us to easily communicate with each other and to share feelings, thoughts, and form meaningful relationships.

But speech is also something that needs to be guarded, because words misused or abused can hurt others—their feelings, their reputation, their future prospects, and even their basic human dignity.

There is an old saying that G-d gave us two ears and one mouth, so that we could listen twice as much as we speak. In other words, our speech should be carefully thought and wisely used.

I remember this Talmudic story going something like this…there are various parts of the body arguing about which is the most important—the legs said without me you couldn’t walk, and the eyes say without me you could not see, and so on and so forth. But the mouth says, I am the most important because with just one (or a couple of) word(s), I can get you in trouble and even killed. And sure enough, on some pretense the man is called before the king and from the man’s mouth comes some insulting words to the king who orders that the man be executed for his insolence.

Indeed our words are very important—they can harm and they can heal.

I was reminded of this just recently, a young adult was telling me that a boy in her high school class made fun of her “in front of everybody” and she broke out crying—deeply hurt and humiliated. Sometimes, these are the events that can scar a person long after the event is over and seemingly forgiven and forgotten. Perhaps, this was just another person’s insensitivity or their misguided thinking that they are elevating themselves by putting down someone else, but either way, their words cut like a knife.

I ran into another example of this recently, when I heard of a Star-Trek fan who questioned whether artificial intelligence (e.g., like the character Data) could be considered human, “just like Jews and Blacks.” Whatever the intent, it was a shockingly racist and hurtful use of language.

Words can and do hurt others, and people should be careful with their speech as well as with their actions.

On this topic, I read this week in the Wall Street Journal (6 January 2009) about a movement to get people to stop gossiping—like the Jewish prohibition against lashon harah (evil language).

Essentially the mantra for better speech is kind/true/necessary. Before we say something, we should ask ourselves:

· Is it kind?

· Is it true?

· Is it necessary?

And “every word we utter should pass through [these] three gates.”

One organization called WordsCanHeal.org advocates for this and asks that people take a pledge, as follows:“I will try to replace words that hurt with words that encourage, engage, and enrich.”

This is a great and worthwhile endeavor for us all in the workplace and in our personal lives.


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