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new people you meet because they resemble others you already know, or because their names are the same as those of people you know.
(d) Thinking about what you have observed. The human mind is so constituted that it does not register immediately what we perceive. This fact is shown quite clearly in cases when people are knocked unconscious by a blow. Upon returning to a state of consciousness, they are unable to recall happenings that took place just before they were struck. If some one suddenly calls you away from an interesting book you are reading, you cannot, upon returning to the book, clearly remember the content of the last few sentences read. Mentally rehearsing a chapter of history you have just read helps you to retain it better.
(e) Mnemonic schemes. There are various memory schemes that you are no doubt already familiar with, such as mentally spelling the name of a person you meet, or writing out his name, or thinking of it as belonging to a certain part of the alphabet,-near the first, middle, or last. Some people remember numbers, dates, and other figures by noting some mathematical relationship among the different figures of the whole number. Suppose, for instance, your telephone number is 1398. Somehow, without any effort, the first figure, 1, sticks in your mind. Then remember that the first three figures are in geometric progression, the ratio being three; and that the last figure is the same as the third decreased by the first. To be sure, this memory scheme involves a rather long and circuitous process, one that may appear absurd when explained to a person who does not go through with similar processes of remembering. But you get results by such a method; that is, you recall the telephone number by the very fact that you have forced your attention upon it and then have figured out a mathematical relationship existing among the individual figures.
(f) Do not attempt to remember too much detail. If you try to store away too many small and irrelevant items, you will have no room for the important ones, or the small and large will become so intermingled that it will be difficult for you to determine what is of value. Instead of trying to remember numbers up in the thousands, as "1,978,401 soldiers crossed the Atlantic" during a given period of the recent war, merely get the round numbers; say "nearly 2,000,000," or "over 1,900,000.” Aim to hold in mind the important, not the trivial.
Do not excuse yourself by saying, “I have a poor memory for names and figures. You can tell this falsehood and believe it and practise it till it becomes sadly true.
15. What Kind of a Subject to choose.
(a) First and always, choose something you are interested in. You may be quite sure that if you are thoroughly interested in a certain thing, and show your interest and enthusiasm while talking, your hearers will catch your spirit of interest for the sub
ject. If interest is contagious, so is the lack of it. Yawn and the world yawns with you.
You may choose a subject your hearers are interested in. When there is interest on the part of speaker and hearers, your talk will prove a successful one.
Or you may choose a subject your hearers are not interested in. In everyday life you often have to talk to people about matters for which they do not already care. It is your business to create interest on their part by showing that you have a thorough knowledge of the subject and are sincere in what you say. When you talk to those who are opposed to your views, you must be tactful in your attempt to bring them over from a state of opposition to one of friendliness and approbation.
(b) Choose a subject you understand or are capable of understanding. If you do not have much knowledge of electricity and photography, you had better not attempt to explain “How X-ray Photographs are made.''
(c) Choose a subject your hearers have the ability to understand. This ability depends upon their general intelligence or education. A group of uneducated people might not be able to derive much information from a talk on "The Causes of Tides, but college men could easily follow such a topic.
You can judge whether your oral composition is an appropriate one by testing it with the suggestions given above. If your subject conforms to these three requirements, then it is a satisfactory one.
16. Adapting Your Oral Composition.- When you give a talk, you must have regard for three things : the people talked to; the subject talked on; and the time, or occasion, when the talk is given. The following suggestions will aid you in harmonizing these three objects of interest :
(a) Your hearers.
(1) Adapt what you have to say to meet the general intelligence and education of your hearers. (See Sec. 15, c.)
(2) Adapt your talk to meet the good will and interest of your hearers. If you are talking in favor of co-education to people who are opposed to it, you must endeavor not to antagonize them by what you say and your manner of talking. Try to win them over pleasantly. (See the Interest or Prejudice Order, Sec. 49, f.)
(b) Your subject.
(1) Your voice and general bearing should be in accord with your subject. If you tell a joke or humorous story successfully, there is always something in your manner of talking which shows either openly or somehow under the surface that your tale is not a serious one, though Mark Twain in his excellent essay How to Tell a Story (which you should read in this connection) appears to give the opposite advice when he says, “The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects there is anything funny about it. ..." A professional story-teller like Mark Twain, Artemus
Ward, or Riley no doubt could employ to great advantage a pose of seriousness and gravity which within itself and disassociated with the particular speaker and the occasion would possess every semblance of the true serious mood, but whatever dignified and grave composure the speaker might assume, the audience would know that Mark Twain was talking and “what was coming.?! Consequently they would, after all, not be fooled.
(2) Your language should harmonize with your subject; if a serious, dignified subject, use serious, dignified language. This does not mean that you are to employ high-flown expressions or seek to use words which you do not normally use. Your description of a large body of American soldiers on parade after returning from the battlefields of France should be given in language suitable to the grandeur of the scene. Touches of slang, though sometimes permissible, and expressions of levity would be entirely out of place here.
(3) Your material should be so arranged that your hearers will get from it the most possible pleasure and information. (See the different orders of arranging material, Sec. 49.)
(c) The occasion.
If your talk does not fit in with the occasion, or time, when it is given, it will not suit those listening
(1) The occasion may be a fixed one, that is, one whose nature you and your audience would know