Thought provoking posts with a touch of philosophy.

The Power of Words

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Language is an amazing gift. No more dangerous, fascinating, or soothing a gift was given to mankind than the ability to use words to speak. With this ability, mankind has created different ways of using words. We’ve made rules for languages known as “Parts of Speech“. We’ve created a unique way of using words to persuade, motivate, and argue against others. Combining words with thought gave new meaning to these ways of talking. We called this new meaning “rhetoric”, and it would carry on to become a key feature in what men/women in history look like intellectual heavy weights. Good rhetoric evolved to need quick wit, an adaptive mind, and an above average grasp of  definitions and word usage.

The Greeks gave us sophistry. The definition of sophistry is the use fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving someone. While such feats often involve incredible reasoning skills (more often than not based on a logic that is purely individualistic), they are dishonest. One must wonder whether the people who use such methods are admired for their creativity and ingenuity, or despised because of their deceitful ways. These people persuade others to do their bidding, without the others realizing it. They will think it is what they want, but in reality, they play into the Sophist‘s hands, and become puppets. These puppets that do not have a will of their own, and they do not have the willpower to break free. Sophists can rule countries, dominate companies, and become very feared people in all walks of life. Oddly enough, in ancient Greece, a sophist was a type of teacher who specialized in using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric for the purpose of teaching aretê — excellence, or virtue — predominantly to young statesmen and nobility. The practice of charging money for education (and providing wisdom only to those who can pay) led to the condemnations made by Plato (through Socrates in his dialogues). Plato regarded their profession itself as being ‘specious’ or ‘deceptive’, hence the modern meaning of the term.

Undoubtedly, there are people who use speech as a way to motivate others. Known as motivational speakers, they make a living off of being able to speak well. They develop the skills needed to connect to their listeners on a level, which makes them willing to listen to what the speaker is saying. After the connection, a motivational speaker will be able to begin to inspire. The message a motivational speaker may carry would sound uninspiring and simple to most. However, that is where the connection comes in. The motivational speaker uses the connection to make simple words sound extraordinary. The words suddenly would not be dull, but would bring hope to people. Convincing the audience that the speaker is a good person, and wants the best for the audience could make a connection. Everyone loves an idealist, and what better idealistic thing is there than to tell someone “I’m living my dream, and you can to. Here’s how…” If said correctly, the speaker will have everyone’s ear in a heartbeat with that one sentence. As a motivational speaker, it’s how you speak that’s most important.

Admittedly, not everyone who speaks in a way to give people hope should be known as motivational speakers. For instance, it is a common misnomer to refer to a Pastor as a motivational speaker. While this isn’t a bad thing, it does not fit what a Pastor does directly. While a Pastor might give a message that would inspire people, the inspiration given is more divine and less connective. A Pastor might say: “Do your very best, and God will do the rest.” While a career motivational speaker might say: “Work hard, work smart, and your persistence will reap rewards.” You see the difference? The Pastor asks that you have faith and do what you can, while the motivational speaker speaks more to what you alone can do. The Pastor does not build the connection, as he doesn’t need it. The connection is divine, and is dependent on people to already believe in what the Pastor is talking about. Motivational speakers inspire people directly, Pastors empower people’s spirits. They aren’t the same, and you’ll get different messages from a Pastor than from a motivational speaker on those grounds alone.

Finally, there is debate. The art of debate stems from the art of reasoning that comes from philosophy. Philosophy is having the ability to discuss a topic realistically to find solutions that are not obvious. Debate is not truly about who is right and who is wrong. It is about how well supported an argument is with reasoning, statistics, and verbal skills. Verbal skills come in a few different categories. The most common are: Passionate, Calm, Dominant, and Whirlpool.

Passionate debaters follow a single creed. Bring the fire, and forget the rest. A passionate debater will not have all the facts and statistics for the topic, but will be the most outspoken for his side of the topic. The pressure that a passionate debater can stack against an opponent can make them highly defensive, thus losing the advantage against the passionate debater’s lack of knowledge. Passionate debaters normally win against the whirlpool debaters due to how persistent they are with a single point in a topic.

Calm debaters, contrary to what some believe, are not the opposite of passionate debaters. Rather, calm debaters take to a topic and are highly defensive. Calm debaters do not leap at their opponents, but they wait for an opportunity. That opportunity arrives the second their opponent makes a mistake, at which point, the calm debaters take full advantage of and attempt to get as much leverage from their opponent’s mistake as possible. Calm debaters often times do not have large stores of information to draw upon. They usually rely on their own calmness to make their opponents feel comfortable, and their quick wit to find and shoot down any mistake they see. A calm debater never loses his/her nerve. Extremely talented calm debaters are able to “create” mistakes in their opponents arguments, especially if their opponent is not confident in their abilities. For that reason, calm debaters have a good chance against all debate types.

Dominant debaters are perhaps the most difficult to debate against. The reason for this being that dominant debaters overwhelm their opponents with facts and statistics. Combining the facts and statistics with reasoning, a dominant debater dominates the debate floor. Able to unnerve their opponents with sheer statistics can often times lead to a very quick conclusion to any debate. Dominant debaters love to use cleverness to lure their opponents into a false sense of safety, allowing them to pursue a line of reasoning that they are comfortable with. Than suddenly the dominant debater uses facts and statistics to tear the opponent’s debate down to the ground. This can lead to a steady drop in confidence from the opponent, usually leading to more opportunities for the dominant debater to use his facts and statistics. A skilled dominant debater will not show all of his/her knowledge immediately, but slowly throughout the course of a debate. Making sure to use the best for last, and finishing the debate with a flourishing style. Dominate debaters normally win against passionate debaters.

Finally, we have the whirlpool debater. Perhaps the most common of debate styles, a whirlpool debater’s motto is. “If you think they can beat it, change it.” They will change the flow of the debate to whatever they are most comfortable with. It is easy to become a whirlpool debater, the only need being the ability to change the topic but staying valid to the main point. Whirlpool debating is easy to learn, but difficult to master. A skilled whirlpool debater can have the topics switching around so fast that it often times disorient the opponent. Leaving the opponent talking about something that has nothing to do with “the topic at hand”. Which often times leads to people becoming frustrated and losing focus. The way a whirlpool debater wins is entirely dependent on two factors. The first being how good the whirlpool debater is at subtly changing the flow of conversation. The second being how good the opponent is with his/her chosen debate style. A whirlpool debater is usually at the mercy of a calm debater, as changing so many topics will undoubtedly lead to a mistake or two being made.

In conclusion, words are powerful and beautiful. It is a fact of life that words are power. With great power comes great responsibility. We must all do our best to use words responsibly. To avoid strife, we must use our words to heal. To debate, we must use our words to persuade. To live, we must use our words to create. We must learn to create inspiration, to create dreams, and to create disciples. Those disciples will teach other disciples, and to begin the disciple cycle. A cycle will only end when one person says the word… no.

By long forbearing is a ruler persuaded, And a soft tongue breaketh the bone. ~ Proverbs 25:15

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