Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Inclusion of Everyday People

Hello Reader,
Got inclusion?

The best advice entertainer Larry David ever received, he said, was from his uncle, who told him, “Curb your enthusiasm.” The example Larry gives is that if you are having a wonderful day in a huge windy, sunny park, and then you go into the Secret Annex, well, don’t gush to tell Ann Frank about the great day you are having. Curb your enthusiasm. 

Another entertainer, movie maker Spike Lee, said “Do the Right Thing.” 

Suppose you are one of three teenage girls walking along, about Ann Frank’s age, maybe a little older. And suppose you are so excited—a friend! And you and The Friend talk excitedly, at length, and for the duration of your outing as the third girl, Sally, is left in the cold. Then you go home, fall back to earth, and say intensely to me, “Why didn’t Sally speak up? I didn’t mean to ignore her!”

My reply: Why didn’t you curb your enthusiasm, and, more importantly, do the right thing? You could have included her by saying, “Isn’t that right, Sally?… What do you think, Sally? …” and looked right at her until she could think of a reply. 

Many teen girls these days enjoy Japanese anime, (cartoons) while from Japan comes a phrase that, maybe, applies to me: “to a fault.” I am “consciousness raised,” as regards inclusion, “to a fault.” I don’t expect others to care as much as I do.

I know I am “to a fault” because one time I was included in a morning meeting of top executives at work. We met in Meeting Room C, around a circular table. Being among the first to arrive, I took the liberty of rolling the chairs around to make as good a circle as possible, for maximum inclusion. I am proud that my company is one where the top executives didn’t mind “little old me” taking such initiative. Two of them chuckled, saying “That’s what Shawna does” (who was absent that day) implying the rest of them weren’t so intent on roundtable inclusion.

That same year I once drove two ladies up the 1A, to the next small town, to see some things. They both used only public transit, so this was a big chance for them to get beyond the city. The two: a friend of mine, and a mutual acquaintance. As we threw our coats in the car, I kept advising the acquaintance to sit up front by me, but she kept saying, “No, I’ll sit in the back,” right up until I pulled rank: “I’m the driver, and I want you up front, in the middle, so that I include you as I am talking over you to Jeannine.” Jeannine backed me up… I forget where we all sat for the drive home.

A few years ago I wrote about going to the theatre to see an anime movie. I mentioned a row of  young men below me where the lad on the very end kept leaning way in, feeling shut out. Had I been a guy in the row, sitting right next to him, then instead of leaning towards the conversation leaders in the middle I would have turned and talked with him. Had I been that poor guy on the very end, if nobody had included me, then—remember those doors on the battleships and submarines? Water tight, with a wheel in the centre to dog the door shut? I would have swung the hatch over, dogged the wheel, and—forget those guys!—turned to watch the show on my own.

When I was younger than those boys, back in the good old days, cocktail parties were common. You would walk around holding a glass stem in two or three fingers. The host, it was understood, had a duty to be inclusive. When she would see person heading towards the wall, she would go up and bring her over to meet someone, saying something they had in common as icebreaker, such as “I’d like you to meet Shawna. She once took the same ceramics course that you are taking.”

One day my university club had a “pop and pizza” party. Maybe we had wine too. Anyways, I made sure we circulated. How? Our club offices were two rectangular rooms along a common hallway. So I said we would have the pop in one room, and the pizza in the other. This took some nerve, and I’m not sure anyone else would have done so, but I was club president, so I could do that. It all worked out. (In my childhood you could put a record player in one corner and vinyl records clear across the room)

Today, instead of a cocktail glass, I’m more inclined to hold a big bottle in my fist, as part of a Bring Your Own Booze party. I remember a young lady named Shaun who was well known for having good BYOB parties at her apartment. We always had a good time at her place. Except for the last party I attended. It was on a nice spring evening, with a Tim Hortons donut shop a couple of blocks away. Of course Shaun’s apartment had no fire place, or camp fire, but I had attended a campfire, back in college. I had done so as part of a college weekend camp (compulsory for my program) My point is this: The professors had taken care to have fewer logs and chairs around the fire than there were people. Not so at Shaun’s.

I should hasten to add that many of us at Shaun’s place were the sort who, in a bar, would order “cranberry soda, no ice.” Picture a vast empty living room, with a big circle of chairs, enough for all. Now, Shaun was a princess, a queen bee, a campfire among candles, and everybody was leaning towards her. And I was just too far away, since it was such a big circle. I simmered, I despaired, and then I collected a few people and mentioned to the air, “We’re going for a walk.” … Not to go smoke, but to go two blocks for a donut and pop or something. We had a nice long visit. 

When we finally got back to the party… there were the same chairs, and the same people still in the same seats as when we left! I don’t think I closed any watertight door, but I don’t think I stayed much longer. I decided Shaun’s previous good parties had been more from good luck than good management.

I used to attend a yearly weekend convention for fantasy and science fiction. At the convention hotel I saw someone else who was inclusive: a beloved author, Lois McMaster Bujold. I met her because I purchased a “breakfast with Bujold” ticket. Early in the morning there were at least a dozen, maybe a score of us, gathered for breakfast. The table(s) was a long rectangle, not like the Algonquin hotel’s round table. Bujold found a seat at the very foot of the table. No one would have faulted her for staying there all breakfast. But instead, as she prepared to sit down, surveying the table, she announced she would sit there for half the time, and then switch to the head of the table. Silly? Embarrassing? No; sometimes, like me as club president, you have to do the right thing. 

I was so touched by Bujold that I decided to share, to self-disclose, even though some of the folks at breakfast were strangers. Bujold had written of a character who had been child-abused into having multiple personality disorder, MPD, so that he could be a spy. You may have seen people with MPD like poor Sybil in Hollywood movies—stupid dam Hollywood. I took a deep breath and told Bujold I knew two people socially who had MPD, and that my best friend had dissociation, (which is the first stage) and so I was glad that Bujold hadn’t exploited the condition. She said with a smile that she had received three fan letters from people with MPD thanking her for being fair… 

A man two seats down, wearing a suit and tie, handed me his business card so I could come and see him if ever I was in his city. A lawyer. I don’t usually hang around with fancy lawyers, but he did courtroom work with Alberta Family Services, so he knew about abuse, meaning: He was a safe person for me. So I became friends with Blair Petterson. I would stay at his place whenever I made a trip up to Edmonton. Saved money on hotels. Good thing I spoke up that day.

Maybe I’m no expert, maybe I’m “to a fault,” but here’s my conclusion: Curb your enthusiasm, and do the right thing. Don’t be afraid to include people, both furniture-wise and verbally, “What do you think?” If you don’t, then people like Bujold and I just might swing shut the watertight door… and you won’t even know we are doing it.

Sean Crawford

Inclusion Thoughts:
~This essay was given as a speech for toastmasters. After my speech, as we cleaned up the meeting room, some fellow toastmasters said to me, “But you can’t be inclusive “to a fault,” can you?” I replied “I meant I try not to be arrogant, I try not to have expectations that anybody else must do as I do.”

~I mentioned the line of boys at the movie in my essay A Night With Evangelion 2.0 archived February 2011.

~When I am doing sign language I will talk out loud as a simultaneous translation: It used to bug me as a boy when my relatives signed silently. If they were signing on a deaf-blind person’s palm and fingers then I couldn’t see what they were saying.

~If my bilingual boss is on the telephone to a bilingual person from his home country when I am not part of the conversation, even if I am only in the adjoining room, then he will talk in English.

~ At my toastmaster club our tables are in a horseshoe. The movie screen is off to the left side, so that folks at the very left end of the horseshoe have more trouble seeing. One night I was one the easier right side. Two experts from toastmasters central were showing us a “new improved reorganization.” (Pathways) 

They sat down right beside me. I asked, “Is it important for you to see the screen as you do your presentation? (No) You could go sit near the blind spot and let folks from this club grab these two good seats.” So they got up and crossed the floor. Offended? No, as they crossed one said, “We should bring you around to all our presentations.”

regarding my disability work, 
without having expectations for other disability workers
When I drive, carrying another staff and two mentally handicapped clients, I put the staff right behind me, I put the more verbal client in the back behind the passenger seat, where I can half see him, and I put the least verbal, a man who understands but can’t converse well, right in the passenger seat close beside me. That’s how I roll. 

… It’s good for folks with disabilities to have “community awareness,” or feel “community membership,” but too often this means walking on the cold sidewalk with a pane of glass between them and the life in the stores. 

I once had a fine “visit second hand bookstore then visit coffee shop” club. (Over coffee I encouraged conversation about our books) I organized it by first scouting for stores with nearby coffee shops, and getting acquainted with the bookstore staff. The clerks in such stores, unlike in the stores for new books, have the time and intention to talk with people. 

So I would be talking to a clerk I had previously met, and then (figuratively, not literally) say, “What do you do think, Sally?” Naturally allowing the mentally handicapped client person into the conversation. Giving the staff a chance to meet a handicapped person. Giving the client a better level of community comfort. As I see it, community membership includes talking with community store people.

The bookstore club went so well that it continued long after I left the agency. Months after I left, the agency director told me how she hadn’t been able to entice a client to come do paid yard work, because he had his bookstore club to go to that day.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Anglicizing with My Brother Jim

Hello Reader,
Have you too got a bee in your bonnet?
About anglicizing?  

Here’s the rest of last week’s essay, which began with Doctor Who being polite to any children without nannies by anglicizing a name of a dead white male. 

When I studied scientific Greek and Latin science vocabulary while taking a career major at university—the closest I could come to taking a liberal arts course—I learned many “proper” ways among white lab coat people to make things plural…One octopus, two octopi; one datum, two data; one spaghetto, two spaghetti.
…But when I talk with regular practical people, I normally make a plural by simply adding S.

I suppose “being practical” explains why English speakers use so few syllables compared to everybody else.  (I asked a linguistics major why so few syllables, but he didn’t know) Another word shortener, I think, is the standard default to put the accent on the first syllable. Which has the added bonus of making English nice for singing popular songs. At least, that’s what a famous Swedish group said. They thought it was practical to just take the first letter from each of their names to give their band a nice short two-syllable title.

When I was a boy my brother Jim taught me to say the fuzzy name Jean Val Jean, a name which buzzes on your tongue, sounding fun to say, like the name of Pooh’s friend, Tigger. (Not Teeger) Therefore when I read a children’s story, in English, of poor Jean Val Jean doing years in prison for stealing one loaf of bread, I made an exception for his name… but not for everybody else in the book. And I did not call the author Veectwa Yugo. No. In Victor Hugo’s world I read everyone’s name in English. You hear what I’m saying? I Anglicized their names… according to our traditional default.

Speaking of Jean Val Jean, and practical defaults, our NATO forces, with lives at stake, are eminently practical: In a Quebec army base where I was stationed, “Saint Jean,” was pronounced “Saint Jeen” to avoid mistakes. And to default Anglicize, of course. Similarly, during the Second World War, to avoid any mistakes from confusing Iraq and Iran, the allied forces changed their maps to make the latter “Persia.” 

Of course, in any language, unless you speak Esperanto, there will always be some exceptions… Being polite means not making new ones gratuitously. Call me old fashioned, but it’s only common sense to anglicize everything that’s not nailed down. And besides, as a North American, anglicizing is my culture, my Traditional Culture. It’s a humble culture, as honest as bread and butter: I won’t pronounce Paris as the French do… unless I’m joking, “How do you keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen gay Paree?”

“But wait!” cries a voice from the peanut gallery. “Speaking of Hugo and the classics, ooh, I just loved reading War and Peace, by Tolstoy, and so I ask you: Won’t it hurt those people’s feelings to Anglicize their names?” 

Surely the answer’s obvious: No, not if they overhear me speaking English. Not if they are thousands of miles away in Russia, and hundreds of years away in time, and only fictional characters to begin with… Oh all right, sometimes I will compromise while they’re still alive, but I tell you: Once they’re dead? They’re Anglicized!

Remember that president and war hero “of France,”—“De Gaulle?”—I like the pun—the fellow who wanted Britain kept out of the EU? And France out of NATO? Today no one in London calls him Sharlez De Gaulle. Except folks inside the French embassy, and even they respect British culture, calling him Charles, if they meet you outside in Trafalgar Square. 

Unfortunately, there will always be some who see themselves as being in the “jet set,” the elite, the ones like Canada’s Justin Trudeau who believe in us being without traditions and without roots. Before Brexit, they were the ones in Britain who wanted Britain to replace the pound sterling with the Eurodollar. So they could jet to “the continent” easily. They would be the same guys who now wish to multiply the sheer number of exceptions to memorize. This at the expense of their rural cousins down the highway,  as my brother Jim drives his truck.


I can only guess why. 

I imagine folks who can afford to fly instead of riding the greyhound are carrying a two-sided coin: On the one side, snobbery; on the other, fear. Snobbery of thinking that people who grew up in house trailers or, like my brother, on a little farm, somehow don’t wash enough and somehow, supposedly, don’t realize how foreigners pronounce their foreign words…. Fear of being like my brother, yes, and also a fear of their peers: their fellow guilty white liberals. Fear of not being “Politically Correct.”   

Rubbish! I can remember when PC was confined to Marxist study groups, back when Politically Correct communists would translate Russian directly to English, and then be puzzled as to why the rest of us couldn’t work up any concern about being “imperialist lackeys” or “running dogs.” If you wish to “bring on the revolution,” then you would do best to stick to your roots. To humble Anglicizing.

My own roots? Mom has high school, Dad dropped out before the war to help his family—I am the only one of six kids in my family with a university degree: I guess this makes me an honorary member of the middle class. And that’s fine by me—Except I just can’t do the “guilty white liberal” thing. I don’t mind smart people: Some of my best friends have degrees. I don’t mind wealth: Some of my best friends are rich. Of course they are, since I live in a wealthy oil town, complete with ethnic diversity from skilled workers moving in—who Anglicize, just as I do. 

What I mind is when elite snobs wimp out, giving in to their fear, distorting our traditional Anglicizing culture, committing their “micro aggressions” against honest people like my brother. I don’t like it when they try to make Canada into a place to live that is more complicated and more sexist, less practical and less democratic. 

…Well dear reader, that’s enough writing for today. Maybe I’ll go off to read a children’s book of tongue twisters, The Fox in Sox by that nice Dr. Seuss. Come to think of it, he’s the one who wrote against snobbery in The Star Belly Sneetches….

Sean Crawford
In cowboy country

Nanny Footnotes 
Nanny Sidebar

Today guys like my brother Jim can easily learn about art and science just by tapping on their keyboard. But Jim surely won’t think to memorize all those fancy plurals. He’ll just use a practical “s.” Well then. Should we college graduate-types be scolding Jim? Scolding Jim into being politically correct and proper with his plurals… or shall we let him use his “s” and thereby, as with Anglicizing, open up our language to everybody? …

Nanny Footnotes: 
~ Speaking of nannies, I met a nanny once. In my night school drama class. She was blond, not dark haired like Miss Poppins. No talking parrot umbrella handle. I’m sure nannies are more common back east where, according to rumor, mansions come with a “nanny apartment.”

~On my first literary holiday to England, the one where I traced the Martians of H.G. Wells, I visited the London Zoo. The first thing I asked at the information desk was, “Where would Mary Poppins take the children?”
… They still have an empty penguin slide they can’t get rid of: It’s a heritage site.

Nanny Sidebar:
As I waited to print this, I found an Edmonton (population one million-ish) newspaper opinion piece. It seems a woman—no doubt an ivory tower graduate—wishes to put a wrongly spelled, tongue twisting, aboriginal name on an urban Edmonton street.  

Ostensibly, she wishes to have a street name that sounds like the indigenes folks away over the horizon. But given her scolding tone, I sense her wish is not from any bountiful love of our traditional culture, and not from any sense of tongue twisting fun. 

When I think of her disagreeable tone, then despite her fancy degree, I would never want her as a nanny for my children. Why? Easy: Because she’s no fun.

Friday, June 29, 2018



Editor's note: Oops! I'm late posting.

Minor note: As a poor boy, having to attend university as a career major, instead of taking liberal arts, I would have missed out on any language changes that others might know of, that might have been made since my strict elementary years.

Hello reader,
Got Anglicizing?

“Anglicizing,” of course, means pronouncing stuff so it sounds regular, not twisted. After all, nobody tells tongue twisters in everyday life. But if you are tempted to, then I totally recommend a tome of tongue twisters, The Fox in Sock by Dr. Seuss—My second favorite childhood doctor. 

As for who is my favorite doctor… I have a nice blue ceramic copy of a certain police telephone box, complete with piggy bank slot.

Recently, I was delighted to hear the pronunciation by “the doctor” during a TV commercial. Watching historical figures appear: “There’s Winston Churchill… and there’s Van Goff,” adds the doctor, not Van “Go.” As for me, I will say “go,” but only because, among American adults, I have heard Vincent Van Gogh’s name spoken so very many times. 

I suppose the doctor was being polite to nice British children: As practical journalists know, (see Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style) “there are new babies being born every minute who have not heard the name pronounced,” not by anyone in their dear housing tenement. The innocent children who read “Gogh” will say it as it is spelled. The standard way.

Is being “innocent,” with “standardized” speech, right and proper? Not necessarily so. Suppose you are a child: If your parents can afford a nanny like in those Mary Poppins books, if you are growing up in a big house with a nursery and a drawing room, if your parents buy expensive art at timely intervals, giving you enough time, between each new painting, to practice saying strangely the name of each new foreign artist… then practice away! 

If your parents for some reason want you to say “limb” instead of “leg,” and a “pride” of lions and a “murder” of crows, instead of a bunch or a flock, then practice is important. Maybe your parents are more concerned with “appearing classy” than with being courteous and fair to those poor kids reading in the tenements. Since they are your parents, please forgive them.

As for me, I think of a truck driver: my brother Jimmy. If he were to drive all across Canada, all of five and a half time zones, then I would hope all the other English speakers would use standard words and pronunciation too. For any new words, they could still all talk nicely together. Not getting fouled up. No, because all across Canada, all of those people raised without nannies would have agreed to a common sense default for new words pronunciation. No fault, no foul. 

Jim’s lifestyle allows him time to read good books, mostly westerns and science fiction, but he hasn’t enough time to learn exceptions to the rules of English pronunciation. Having learned as a child the five vowels, “and sometime Y,” James won’t take time as an adult to stand in front of a mirror and practice shifting gears to drop into strange foreign vowels and back up again. In other words, his sentences will not include any words abruptly spoken in italics. 

As for driving trucks and cars, Jim and I both learned to drive a manual transmission, shifting gears smoothly, but such learning required extra work. There’s a good reason most Canadians stick to automatics—it’s practical.

And so is English practical. When I was in high school taking French, every year I kept learning a new list of irregular verb forms, a lonnngg list, even during my last year. And those conjugations! “I rock, you rockez, they rockoley…” No wonder, as a rebellious youth, I failed French. I just wanted to rock. (But I took it again and passed) 

We still have a few English exceptions to memorize: I drink, I have drunk, I had drank … but fewer all the time. These days, only swimmers my age and older say “I dove in,” just as only older basketball players switch to taking penalty shots with an underhand throw—Young players complain it’s not practical to learn to do so. 

Another practical English thing: no genders to memorize. No la knife and le fork. For our innocent nonsexist children, no teacher and teacher-ess. I like how in Britain the semi-sexist binary “ladies and gentlemen” is being replace with a unisex “you lot.” ( phrase I hear on Doctor Who) In Australia, Judging by a lady journalist on Youtube interviewing the doctor and Clara, unisex is “you guys.”

The language encourages non-sexist democracy for English speakers. Not like in Germany, where, according to some guy in a tavern, there are seven “verbal salutes” built into their language, where you must acknowledge a speaker of a higher social class as being your superior. I suppose the German language has sexism too. In Japan, as I heard in the aforementioned tavern, there are 27 salutes, but some of those are only for addressing the emperor. Well. No need to ask whether the Japanese have sexism, eh? No wonder back during my youth in Vancouver, when a rebellious Japanese teen was addressed in Japanese by his parents, the boy would reply in English.

Back in the mists of time, back when France was still Gaul, then, on lush green hills across the English Channel, the original creators of English were practical and democratic. They had to be: After the fall of Rome restless tribes poured in, mostly the Jutes, (there’s a Jutland in Denmark) the Saxons, (There’s a Saxony in Germany) and the Angles. Others too, of course. An English common prayer ended, “And deliver us from the fury of the Northmen.” 

My vision: If, late on a tired English afternoon, you ran into a bearded fellow from the next valley, looking at you under his furrowed brow with suspicion, his sword loose in his scabbard, well, that was no time to be throwing a childish tongue twister at him. If the man was from another tribe, then you needed a practical pidgin language. Can do? No time for memorizing irregular verb exceptions. No irregular vowels. The nonsexist, non-classist democracy of the language was a happy side effect.

For the English, anglicizing was a practical courtesy. The constraints of simplicity and only having five vowels freed them to speak for peace.

Sean Crawford

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Tale of Two Classrooms

“You cannot be a powerful life-changing presence to some people without being a complete joke and embarrassment to others.”
Mark Manson  (link)

Hello Reader,
Got classroom participation?
As practise for elsewhere?

Been There, Done That
Class one
Class two
Class one plus two

You may recall that after the Americans tossed out King George, there was a fear that in a few years, a few decades, or a few generations, they might go trumping along and elect an Uncle Joe or a Big Brother or some other “king in all but name.” Part of the reason they didn’t elect a Donald Duck to rule their pond was their experience with participation in all sorts of nonpolitical things. A French observer, Alexis de Tocqueville, in his 1830 still-in-print classic Democracy in America, reported back to Europe that the Americans were big on forming associations… independent of government. 

Needless to say, an association can mean speaking up in participation. 

De Tocqueville pointed out (in my own words) that if government does not allow people to make decisions—with a sense of agency—in small things, then, for a big thing like voting, the people would fail: Their vote decision, however important, would lack the personal responsibility and intelligence that comes only after instilling a feeling of agency.

I think what you don’t want is a North American looking towards the expansive frontier with the same slumped shoulders as a proletariat looking at the factory walls saying, “I only work here.” For any democracy, to have the population saying “I only live here” is a disaster. 

My university student newspaper had a front page banner slogan, “The price of democracy is participation.” Nevertheless, some of the students, during their classes, would sit slumped like high school kids, feeling no sense of agency. Mere passengers. Bumps on a log. Children in adult bodies.  Others, though, would make their education serve them. They would listen… and, if need be, they would also talk, they would participate.

Been There, Done That
Out in the real world, at a community centre one night, during a break, someone told me I always speak concisely. Yes. I developed the skill of brevity partly by writing as a student newspaper reporter, partly by practising brevity as a student speaking in class, and partly from using a walkie talkie.

Class one
So there I was, in a liberal arts class, learning of Outstanding Lives. We studied three unusual people: Mahatma Gandhi, (Indian, assassinated) Simone Weil, (French, did not survive the war) and Thomas Merton. (U.S. monk, died with head wound but no autopsy) Having missed the very first class of the semester, I ended up sitting at the front, off to the side. (But we could turn around) 

My choice of seat worked out fine, as I ended up being literally touchy feely with a fellow mature student who sat beside me. She told me the others thought we were lovers. A young married woman next to her ended up inviting me as her “plus one” to a dinner for Dean’s list students. We three participated in class, as did a knot of people in the middle, and a knot of people in the back, and, well, as did everybody in that room, for that happy semester. 

Down the years, I have never attempted to ever be part of any “popular” or “in crowd.” Of course not: We intellectuals, and/or nerds, are traditionally independent. But for this class, I remember once, outside of class, a popular looking young woman saying sadly of we three (or more) “Why are you guys such friends (and not me)?” The main answer, which I didn’t share, was that my affectionate friend and I both had “a past.” I was sure happy I lucked out.

Of course it wasn’t pure luck, because I had used my sense of personal agency: 

So there I was, in my professor’s office, during the first week of classes: He already knew me because I attended the very first class of his other section (class two) for Outstanding Lives.
“May I transfer to your other section?”
“It would fit your schedule better, eh?”
“No, it knocks out my lunch break! But the section I attended is no good… On that first day, I swear I participated almost as much as the rest of the class combined!”  

Class two
What I didn’t tell my prof was that I had sensed, that first day, that I wasn’t respected. I would hope I wasn’t as bad as in Mark Manson’s quote “…a complete joke and embarrassment to others.” I had tried to lead by example, even heroically sacrificing some dignity, you might say, so as to encourage others to speak up too, but in vain. Not being one to cast pearls before swine, I transferred out before trying to help my peers a second time. I never dreamed what a splendid decision that would prove to be.

Class one plus two
We met up, both sections, for the final examination. While my own class had warm bonds, like under a warm yellow light bulb, I noted the other class as being awfully silent with each other, awfully drab, like being under a dull fluorescent light. I had no sympathy for them.

A few weeks before the final class I privately asked my prof, “Did your other section ever start participating?” “No.” I asked what it takes: He told me that if you can get three or four students to talk, as a critical mass, then you may have a class radiating excited conversation for learning. 

So how do you participate? By Listening well, that comes first. Encourage your peers with eye contact, head nods and smiles. 

I might add that some folks learn by solely listening, not talking. I myself have often been thanked after community centre meetings, where I barely said a single word, for contributing my intent energy for listening. 

Next: “Think before you speak.” People aren’t concise because they “wing it” but because they think it over first: As you rehearse what to say, try not to move your lips. (Joke) Army guys with back pack radios, and I was one, are taught to swallow their pride and write down their sentences on a field message pad, if that’s what it takes, before they speak. Looking back, I don’t recall anyone doing so. 

The army teaches BASS: Brevity, Accuracy, Speed and Security. 

BASS for civilians: I already covered how to be brief.
 Accuracy could mean citing your sources as you talk, as if in a newspaper article. “According to…” 
Speed means, again, don’t try to slowwwwly think “standing on your feet,” not while you are monopolizing everybody else’s time
And security? Among civilians, that could mean don’t blab anything behind someone’s back you wouldn’t say to their face. I ask you: How could anyone, in a public setting, accidentally say something prejudiced against another race, religion or creed?

Bonus tool: Unless you’re out in the field carrying a big pack with a built in radio transceiver, just relax and be yourself. We are all looking for authentic people.

Sean Crawford

“Here’s a piece on talking, written by a transcriber. The best part is the numbered advice near the end. (link) 

~Here’s a (link) to the shortest textbook I ever bought, a “life changing” thesis written by Simone Weil during the Nazi occupation of France, with the Greek parts translated by essayist (Settling the Colonel’s Hash) and novelist (The Group) Mary McCarthy. I have mentioned Weil and her thesis before, first in Troy, the Iliad, and music, archived January 2014, and more recently in Yankee B.S. and Doctor Who, archived December 2017.