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robdamel's avatar

How can I improve my ability to express myself and my opinions?

Asked by robdamel (786 points ) July 31st, 2012

I would like to express very well how I feel about things- my opinions. I would also like to be more assertive, which I believe would fall in a similar category as with the rest. From careful analysis, I’ve concluded that the lack of a rich vocabulary may contribute to my being afraid of being challenged (and therefore avoiding confrontations where I may need to further express myself).
I would also like to evolve my critic side- I’d like to criticize more the things around me, and do it as well as those critics that most artists fear.
There is that proverb that goes: ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’. I would like to evolve myself, as a hobby, to this point, where I can use words to effectively defend myself (assertive with a touch of poison).

What are your suggestions as to how I may evolve this? If you also believe the lack of vocabulary is a problem, how do you recommend I solve this? What kind of books do you recommend? What type of things should I google?

As a side note, I will use this information to evolve my English and Portuguese speaking ability.

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15 Answers

Sunny2's avatar

I sympathize with your problem. Just jump in and do your best. Practice is the best way to do it. As for vocabulary, read. . . newspapers, books, magazines. Look up words you don’t know and start a list of those you want to remember. Writing them down helps to put them in your memory. Using them helps to keep them there. Good luck.

thorninmud's avatar

It sounds like you want to go about this combatively and are looking to arm yourself with rhetorical weapons that will make you harder to conquer. But that’s usually not a very effective way to get your point across. Instead, try imagining that you’re taking the person by the hand and leading them from where they are step-by-step over to your vantage point so they can see what you’re seeing. That will require that you first do your best to understand the other person’s position, then imagine how you can build a bridge of words that will lead them over to yours.

This kind of persuasion is far less likely to excite antagonistic feelings that would prevent others from seeing what you’re getting at.

robdamel's avatar

@Sunny2 Hey Sunny, thanks for the response, I will get to that.
@thorninmud Hey Thorn, thanks for the response. You are partially correct about what i’m trying to achieve- I would like to ‘arm’ myself with words as part of my goal. I would like to efficiently and effectively respond back to verbal assaults. Persuasion, however, is more the least of my goals- its just the simple matter of not being afraid to say what I have in mind.
I fully agree with your text though.
Keep the answers coming!

Shippy's avatar

In the old days, there were debating teams, they were great fun and taught us how to argue effectively. In fact it was here as kids we learned that to argue was not always a bad thing if handled correctly. Is there no such thing now? The net would be a great place to start this type of debating team, if there is not one already. With good rules set in place, like correct use of language, spelling and no aggression.

To put ones point across is a difficult task, when we are emotional about it. I always try to calm down (not always successful) when I am upset about a remark or situation that needs to be dealt with. Most the time I am like a bull in a china shop, which renders me the loser anyway. So there is definitely a strong high emotional IQ needed when putting a point across.

Starting a fascinating but risqué Blog might also be a good start. Here you could build your vocabulary and also perhaps link to those with a similar mindset which too would enrich your own vocal ammunitions. I think your thought processes are pretty good considering you are aware that some people do win wars with words. Success in doing so is so sweet. You could also join a lawyers forum and or read some old cases, some are documented and maybe even closing arguments listed. I am sure lawyers use their best skills here for example! I could go on but this is getting a bit wordy!

robdamel's avatar

@Shippy awesome text Shippy, looking through documented debates is an excellent idea. Don’t worry about wordy, I’d read it all anyways, and enjoy it! Thanks for the post

geeky_mama's avatar

Perhaps an organization like Toastmasters Int’l would be a good place to try.. They have specific training materials for learning Persuasive Speaking. It would give you a safe forum to practice debate/public speaking skills.

tranquilsea's avatar

Try A Word A Day for new words. That and you can read books written by the movers and shakers in society and see how they express themselves.

Start off with small conversations with people you trust. Let them know what your ultimate goals are. Have fun with it. Before you know it you’ll be able to jump into random conversations with aplomb and authority.

gailcalled's avatar

You do not need a huge vocabulary in order to express yourself clearly and calmly. Short and pithy sentences are very effective. So is a little silence.

Assertion is more convincing without the touch of poison.

What does “the touch of poison” mean?

Explain in 25 words or less, please.

Logorrhea or vitupereration is not necessary. Their use is often counter-productive.

You improve (and not evolve) your language skills.

Your language skills evolve. (it is an intransitive verb, meaning that it does not take a direct object.)

Look up a few new words every day. Try to use them several times. Then they are yours.

(Very few fancy long words here.)

wundayatta's avatar

If you are in high school or college, join the debate club.

robdamel's avatar

@gailcalled Hello, thanks for the corrections and post. Thank you also for the new vocabulary hehe. I agree about the counter-productive comment. ‘the touch of poison’ means exactly that – assertiveness with a little ‘vituperation’, or a small shift to the offensive. Poisonous words are those negative words that one may carry with them time after an event/argument. It may be frowned upon to develop a poisonous tongue as a goal (one of), but its like buying a weapon for self-defense really.
But someone proficient with words and it’s negative use is rather fascinating, wouldn’t everyone agree?
Cheers for the posts

gailcalled's avatar

A debate or conversation where you have different points of view should never be acrimonious. The best way to voice an opinion is 1) to have a clear point of view and 2) to express it clearly and calmly.

You need weapons for self-defence only when you are being attacked.

No one wins in an angry argument. And your adversary interlocutor will have no interest in your views when he is too busy being distracted by your tone and attitude.

For the record, you write very very well and need only to remember (forever, please) that “it’s” means “it is.” The possessive is “its negative use.”

Are you this comfortable with Portuguese also? Maravilhoso!

robdamel's avatar

@gailcalled Haha Yes I knew you’d mention that ‘its’ mistake! I was a bit lazy to edit it out but i noticed it after the second edit of my post. Thank you by the way, for the kind compliment on my English. It is my first language since I was raised in the United States, but I have been speaking Portuguese everyday for the last two years as I now reside in Brazil, and slowly it is becoming my first language. I am starting to forget my English vocabulary. Truthfully though, I intend to use the advice given here with my Portuguese! But I am far from perfect and I always seek to better my communication.

I agree with your observations – expressing an opinion clearly and calmly exudes an air of confidence, contributing to an even stronger argument.

I would like this, to express myself effectively and be comfortable with what I am capable of saying. As for arguments, although it’s not exactly what I’d like to practice, I agree also- angry arguments really go nowhere, as then it becomes a battle of attitudes. Reading up on other people’s arguments, however, may definitely IMPROVE my speaking skills. hehe

As you said, unfortunately I come across many jerks and am therefore attacked quite often. Sometimes, you just want to be a little more than assertive and attack back.

Trillian's avatar

Try a membership in Toastmasters.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Here’s another vote for Toastmasters International. Their sole purpose is to teach one to speak better.

jordym84's avatar

I can relate to your predicament, only my situation is a bit of a reverse of yours: I grew up speaking Portuguese, French, and Portuguese Creole and since moving to the US 9 years ago, English and Spanish have become my predominant languages. I’m still fluent in the first 3 languages, but if I go a long time without using them, I struggle with some of the vocabulary and grammar the next time I try to use them.

I haven’t read through everyone’s posts, so I apologize if someone else has already said this, but the best way to master a language (or anything else, for that matter) is through incessant practice (remember, practice makes perfect). I couldn’t speak a word of English when I came to the US and I wasn’t happy with not being able to understand what people around me were saying (high school is hard enough when you speak the same language as everyone else, let alone when you don’t) and not getting the jokes when everyone but me was laughing. I was determined to learn English so I dove into it with all I had and now I barely have an accent and, at the risk of sounding arrogant (I swear I’m not lol), have a better grasp of the English language than a lot of the people I know for whom English is their mother tongue. My advice to you is: whatever you do, don’t lose your drive! It’ll take you a long, long way in your quest :)

Best of luck!!

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