Art of articulation

One of the key differentiators of success, through life, is the ability to articulate — to state your point of view clearly and assertively. This ability is seen to have a high correlation with the kind of leadership roles one picks up both in the academic and work worlds and also with the performance ratings that bosses, peer group and subordinates hand out to you. And yet, so many brilliant minds falter at the sacred altar of articulation.

My mother’s maternal wisdom taught her that she needed to cultivate this ability very early in her offspring. The well promoted Toastmasters’ clubs and summer coaching camps were not in vogue in the then slumberous Trivandrum where my brother and I spent our summer vacations.

So my mother had a simple plan. Every night around dinner time, actually half hour before dinner, she handed us both two small slips of paper. Each contained the all important topic for the day. We had a precious 10 minutes to think through the topic and get our thoughts all sorted out before we came up before the family audience for a grand 3 minutes each to give the ‘Talk of the Day’.

Initial giggles dissolved into serious preparation, the delivery of the speech and then discussion around the dinner table on what went right and what could have been improved in our little diatribes.

Those little impromptu speeches looked like a good way to liven up an evening spent at home when the only alternative on television was Krishi Darshan. But as I stand back and think on what actually transpired, I realise that slowly but surely my mother was giving us under-tens the skill to collect, organise and deliver a message in a calm and collected manner.  She was actually helping us avoid the panic of stage fright or the diffidence of standing up before an audience, making the expression of thoughts actually second nature.

Not just little speeches, encouragement to youngsters to put up impromptu skits all by themselves is another way to get them to informally start expressing themselves. As a child, one heard legendary tales of venerable ICS officers who encouraged lively discussions around the dining table on current affairs. Their offspring in the civil services scorecard was a testimony to the success of these dining table initiatives.

So push aside your TV remote, give the soap operas a go-by some evenings and liven up a discussion around your own dining tables with a speech or two while quietly and subtly developing your progeny’s all important ability to articulate.

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