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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California


Don't "Kill the Ball"

The success of the actions of great men depends more upon the purity of their hearts than upon the means of their actions.

  -- VEDAS

To "kill the ball" is a tennis term. It's what you do when your opponent is out of position. You pounce on the ball and hit it so hard that you win the point.

When you and another person are having an argument, that is what you generally try to do. You try to find a point of fact or position where you can win without your opponent being able to respond.

But, when you are trying to be charming, it is utter madness to try to stake out a winning position. The last thing you want is for the conversation to fall "out of charm" because you are beginning to find yourself in disagreement with the other person. Then you are in the potentially dangerous position of wanting to kill the ball and with it, all your efforts so far.

Trying Too Hard to Impress

When I was a young firebrand, I got involved in politics at a time when the state was convulsed with political acrimony. I spent hours studying and reviewing every possible fact on the key issues of the day. I wrote letters to the editor that were published regularly in the major newspapers, and was regularly featured as a guest on the controversial radio shows. I really knew my stuff.

I would argue, debate, and overwhelm anyone who wanted to discuss the issues of the day. I was like a verbal ninja, slashing skillfully at any opponent, and even at my friends. Then one evening, I was at social gathering with a lot of prominent people. When I arrived, they were gathered in groups talking and bantering back and forth.

Knowing I could dominate and win any political conversation, I walked up to a group of businesspeople I knew and began speaking about something in the day's news. As I opened my mouth, as if on cue, the four men glanced at me and then dispersed quickly in four different directions, leaving me standing there by myself. It was a lesson I never forgot, and I never again attempted to use my verbal prowess to dominate a conversation.

Do You Want to Be Happy or Right?

No matter how strongly you feel or how ridiculous you think other people's ideas may be, avoid even the tiniest sense of conflict. Conflict in a conversation is a certain charm destroyer. That doesn't mean you can't be firm in your opinions, but don't let the idea of winning the point overwhelm your true purpose -- which is to be warm, genial, likable, and a pleasure to be around. In a word: to be charming.

Your Tools for Charming Others

First, be clear about your intent in any conversation: It is to be charming. It is not to win the point or to impress others with your cleverness.

Second, avoid conflict at all costs. It is an immediate charm destroyer. It's difficult to be perceived as being charming when there is even a semblance of hostility in the air.

Third, you may be pleasantly firm with your opinions, but don't try to kill the ball. Present your point of view gently, tentatively, and then let it go. Don't become so involved in being "right" that your charm is obscured in a cloud of argument.

Finally, only take over the conversation when other people make it clear that they want to hear from you. When they ask a lot of questions about you, that means they are most likely interested in you. Oblige them, but don't risk becoming a bore by going on too long.

When it comes to charm or winning the point, if you win -- you lose!

Westside Toastmasters on Meetup

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