In early September 2000 inside of a small, crowded lecture hall at Butler University, an esteemed business professor told me and about 100 other business students a thing or two about being successful. I could tell he’d done a damn fine job as a leader and executive, so I shut up and listened.
Amidst the motivational platitudes (“Give 110% to your work”), he recommended that we prioritize our ‘soft skills’ as much as our technical skills. That advice is pure gold right there.
Later, a student asked him what were the most beneficial classes a business student could enroll in?
“Honestly, they’re not taught in the business school”, he said with a shit-eating grin. “Go take as many philosophy and public speaking classes as you can. They teach you how to think and speak well, how to be a human.”
I took that lesson and made it the center of my life. Since then, I’ve been passionately focused on learning to speak magnetically and connect deeply. The moments and relationships that these skills forge are precisely what being a human is all about.
I want to share the 28 resources – videos, articles, and interviews – that have had a tremendous impact on my conversational skills, public speaking ability, and overall social confidence. I regularly reference back to them to keep my social fluency in tip-top shape. Enjoy!
Have Sparkling Conversations
I can’t think of a life skill that is more enjoyable to develop and employ than the ability to have engaging conversation. Take your attention off of your smart phone and put it squarely on the person in front of you. Get curious. Show love. Connect.
How to Hold Conversation Like a Man [VIDEO] – Nick Sparks
Nick Sparks is the only ‘dating coach’ out there who I pay attention to. He discusses how to have a conversation that drips with curiosity, amusement, and that relaxed confidence that everyone loves. Perfect for men, women, single, dating, or married.
The Art of Conversation: Timeless, Timely Do’s and Don’ts from 1866 – BrainPickings.com
Some say the good ol’ days were the best days. For conversation, they certainly were. This 150-year old guide dishes out frank advice on being polite, not oversharing, the unforgivable sin of being boring, and the fine art of effortless charm. Perhaps the most potent guide available on being a memorable person.
5 Ways to Listen Better [VIDEO] – TED Talks/Julian Treasure
Being a great conversationalist is as much about speaking and as it is about listening. Hell, I’d say that listening is actually more important. Sound professional Julian Treasure lucidly explains 5 effective ways to be a more engaged, present listener in a world that no longer pays attention.
How to Speak So That People Want to Listen [VIDEO] – TED Talks/Julian Treasure
Julian Treasure packs a ton of conversational gold into 10 engaging minutes. He teaches us how to speak in a voice that is made to be listened to, with warm tones, rhythmic pacing, and with the rich undertones of curiosity and love.
Connected, but Alone? [VIDEO] – TED Talks/Sherry Turkle
MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle explores the ways our increasingly connected lives are beginning to chip away at our ability to truly connect and communicate with others. A wake-up call to the digital masses, this is the most important link you could click in this article.
How To Tell People What You Do (And Prove You’re Good At It!) – Derek Halpern
The subject line says it all: learn to talk about yourself and brag without coming off like a total self-centered asshole. As a matter of fact, Derek shows you how to self-promote and still come off like a decent guy.
How To NOT Be A Social Climber – Keith Ferrazi
Keith Ferrazi literally wrote the books on relationship building and being an authentic networker (“Never Eat Alone” and “Who’s Got Your Back?”). Learn how to create valuable personal and business relationships without being schmoozy and cheesy.
The Charismatic Mindset
There is more to charisma than the words you say, your body language, or your ability to carry on conversation. It all starts with your mindset. The way you choose to see progress and connect with others will have a great bearing on your success.
How to Make Your Own Luck – Mark Manson
For my nickel, this is the best article on the Internet. And, that’s no joke. If you know how to create opportunity, you’re a golden child. Luck is mostly up to you and the illustrious Mark Manson shows you the steps to lock in your lucky streak.
The Simple Truth About Happiness – High Existence
Human beings are basically pleasure seeking/pain avoiding animals. It’s what we do – and it never seems to fully satisfy us. So, how do you get off the hedonic treadmill and live a truly fulfilling life? The short answer: Get to work and start building something.
Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives – Brain Pickings/Maria Popova
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has done the world a great deed by delving into how our beliefs and mindsets ultimately shape our destiny. Dweck outlines that in the battle for success, those with a flexible, always learning “growth” mindset are ripe to win, while those with a lazy, risk-averse “fixed” mindset are built to stay stagnant.
The Authenticity Paradox – Harvard Business Review/Hermiana Ibarra
This was my favorite piece of writing from 2014. ‘Authenticity’ is revered everywhere for its leadership and relationship powers. But, what if the authentic you kinda sucks at your job? Is it still effective to parade around authenticity as the magical cure-all? Ibarra nails this debate.
If you love debating and arguing, this is the tool to help you diagnose all the ruses, red herrings, and bullshit people will throw your way. Hell, even if you’re like me and hate debating, it’s still crucial to know how our brains trick us and others play us for the fool.
It’s said that William Shakespeare invented over 1,700 words to make his writings capture his intended emotion. In your pursuit of social fluency, having a deft grasp of grammar and a colorful vocabulary will keep your message as descriptive, accurate, and engaging as Shakespeare’s.
TheOatmeal.com gives you their hilarious take on how to use this mysterious punctuation mark. Look smarter when you write – or, at least stop looking like an idiot.
These 11 infographics illuminate the most common (and easily correctable!) grammar mistakes you’re making. Quit dangling your participles and get to work, you philistines!
…If you’re searching for that perfect $5 word to put some English on your writing and speaking, these three lists will do it just right:
52 Interesting Words to Know – Vocabulary.com
Tell Memorable Stories
Too many of us attempt to persuade, sell, and entertain by suffocating our audiences with nothing but boring logic and data. Stop that. Learn to tell a story that connects with others to win hearts and spread your ideas.
Storytelling and The Art of Persuasion – Bloomberg
Executive coach and former entertainment industry professional Robert Dickman shows how the 5 elements of a powerful story – Having Passion, The Hero, The Antagonist, Awareness, and Transformation – can help you sell more and deeply inspire your team.
Understand how we’ve been hardwired since our cave-dwelling days to find stories to be the most fascinating and effective ways to share information. Polish things off with a few habits and techniques you can adopt today to become a more riveting storyteller.
The Clues to a Great Story [VIDEO] – TED Talks/Andrew Stanton
Master storyteller and Pixar writer Andrew Stanton builds a bridge between storytelling for film and the rest of our lives. This video will give you insight into how to create more dramatic, compelling stories and build richer characters – applicable to both major presentations and everyday conversation.
Many of us inundate our audiences with data-loaded slides, drown them in drawn-out explanations, and overwhelm them with hyperbole. These are muddling your message. Harness the power of our story-loving brains and paint your picture using a palette or stories and metaphors instead.
Ira Glass on Storytelling [VIDEO] – NPR/Ira Glass
Ira Glass, storytelling powerhouse and producer of NPR’s This American Life, lays out the structure for telling immediately captivating stories (even if the actual content is boring). Make sure you watch all 4 parts of this video series.
Give Riveting Speeches
It’s often quoted that many people fear public speaking more than death. Whether that’s actually true is pointless because becoming confident in your practice of the fine art of rhetoric and public speaking is a life skill that will serve you well in your career and personal life. Pursue it all costs.
The 21 Paradoxes of Presenting – Sims Wyeth
F. Scott Fitzgerald nailed it when he said “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Sims Wyeth is an executive communication coach and speech writer who nails the fine line that a magnetic public speaker must walk.
The Secret Structure of Great Talks [VIDEO] – TED Talks/Nancy Duarte
Nancy Duarte uncovers the patterns and rhythms of some of history’s most well-known speeches, such as The Gettysburg Address and the 2007 iPhone launch speech. Using this intuitive structure will make even the most boring quarterly report presentation more memorable.
Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are [VIDEO] – TED Talks/Amy Cuddy
Want to change your how you feel? Start with your posture. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy unloads 21 minutes of delicious research behind the mind-body connection and how you can alter your mood by using more empowering body language.
20 Hand Gestures You Should Be Using – Science of People/Vanessa Van Edwards
Vanessa Van Edwards is the most fascinating person in persuasion. She’s made a career of studying body language. One of the quickest ways to step up your body language game is by using hand gestures. Vanessa uncovers the science of hand gestures and the 20 most effective gestures you can use to make a stronger point.
9 Public-Speaking Lessons From The World’s Greatest TED Talks – Carmine Gallo
Nancy Duarte uncovered the structure of the world’s most spectacular speeches; Carmine Gallo shows how to actually deliver these speeches. Gallo painstakingly analyzed hundreds of hours of TED Talks to find the 9 secrets known by the world’s most captivating speakers.
Do Your Slides Pass the Glance Test? – Harvard Business Review/Nancy Duarte
Your PowerPoint slides suck. They’re collapsing under a mass of text and data, lulling your audience to sleep one click at a time. It’s fine – most people can’t design a deck to save their job. Nancy Duarte shares her sterling view on creating intuitive (even engaging) slides, informed by good visual design and storytelling.
Unleash Your Inner Superhero
There’s a real lack of human connection today.
I can feel it when I meet someone new, go on a first date, watch someone give a speech, or observe a couple together. We avert our gazes from their eyes and look into our iPhone camera instead. Dating has been relegated to another transaction. Despite the deluge of devices and information available today, more usually means less.
You can fix this, though.
Powerful communication – the kind that inspires, seduces, and amazes us – is a rare asset today. That also means it’s more valuable!
By re-wiring your mind and creating a lifestyle that seeks out connection, you become remarkable. Your friendships, intimate relationships, and career prospects will be transformed by your ability to speak with charisma and connect with curiosity.
For the sake of having a more inspired life and career, start building this ability right now.
Peace & Charisma,
Dalton K. Finney