Would you like to be intelligent?
Intelligent communicators get more fans and listeners, because they not only have ideas worth saying, but they know HOW to say it.
So would you like to be one of them?
If you’re reading this article, the answer is probably a resounding yes. And guess what? You CAN become more intelligent.
After all, intelligence, according to psychologist Carol Dweck, is not fixed.
Based on her research, Dweck found that people who have a “growth mindset” — people who believe that they can become better, smarter, and more talented if they work at it — actually DO become better, smarter, and more talented.
The question is, HOW do you do it? How do you become more intelligent?
Here are three tested methods that have worked for people in the past, and will do wonders for you as well. And they all have to do with one profound concept:
1. Listen — REALLY listen — to classical music
Popular music is making people more stupid. The lyrics are dumbed down, the music is formulaic, and worse.
According to an article by the BBC, a Spanish National Research Council study showed that pop music has become:
- Melodically and harmonically less complex,
- More self centered (the use of the personal pronoun “I” has increased, as has antisocial/angry lyrics, while songs that emphasize working together has decreased),
- And more repetitive (“a sterling 2017 report by Daniel Morris…suggests that hit songs are getting closer and closer to a one-word lyric sheet)
This might be okay if you are an English learner looking for material to boost your elementary vocabulary, but for the rest of us, it’s not helping.
On the other hand, classical music is more musically complex, allowing it to stimulate your brain. It also works better as a relaxant, which can create a more conducive environment for learning.
Some people find classical music stuffy, overly-sophisticated, or unrelatable, which is unfortunate, because if the music bores you, you won’t benefit from it.
But usually this perception is because people have never paid deep attention to the way classical music is constructed — the amount of skill that goes into some of these works is mind-boggling.
For instance, J.S. Bach once wrote a “crab canon” a piece where two musical lines are complementary and backward, like a musical palindrome.
And plenty of composers have written synesthetic/metaphorical music, like Rimsky-Korsakov’s “flight of the bumblebee.” Even without the piece’s name, you could likely guess what it’s about, just based on how it sounds.
Even popular musicians often rely on or steal from classical music:
- The chorus from Billy Joel’s “This Night” came from the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata
- Elvis Presley used the melody from opera favorite “O Sole Mio” for “Now or Never”
- And Lady Gaga has also stolen from classical music (in this case Czardas by Monti) to create her song intros.
Anyone can listen to and learn from classical music, though sadly many don’t try. But it’s worth it if you decide to.
If you aren’t familiar with classical music, but are willing to try, I suggest starting with (arguably) the greatest composer of all time: Johann Sebastian Bach —
This is not to say that you should NEVER listen to popular music, if you like it, but spend some time giving the old greats a try — there’s a reason why they’ve stuck around so long 😉
2. Listen — REALLY listen — to someone you disagree with
Find out what you really believe and care about, then listen to someone who shares the opposite opinion and REALLY try to see why they believe what they do, refute it if you can. Do not lose your temper.
I’ve done this a few times, a bit involuntarily, because sometimes naysayers come to find me.
But only engage with worthy opponents — people who care deeply about their point of view, but are also respectful and thoughtful enough to carry on a productive discussion.
If someone says things like “this is stupid,” and then rants and raves on non substantial matters, they are not worth your time.
Instead, look for a thoughtful, respectful person who disagrees with you, and hear each other out.
Don’t put up a mental block by telling yourself ahead of time “whatever s/he says, it will definitely be wrong.” Give them and their ideas a chance.
You may learn something life changing.
3. Listen — REALLY listen — to your own thoughts
People have tens of thousands of thoughts every day.
But all too often, we are so wrapped up in rushing from one task to another, we rarely reflect on what we are thinking.
Have you ever tried really listening to your thoughts?
Don’t get me wrong. This is NOT meditation. At least, not the meditation that tells you to quiet your mind and think about nothing. It’s about thinking one thought through, kind of like what you do when you write.
When you don’t take the time to slow down your thinking and pay attention, it can be hazardous to your health:
If you are often stressed out, why? Could it have something to do with the fact that your internal monologue sounds like this:
OMG. I am running late for my meeting…And when I get home I still have to do my laundry…oh shoot! I think I’m out of detergent. Do I have time to stop by the store on the way back?…and why is that light on my dashboard blinking? Don’t tell me there’s something wrong with the engine, I don’t have time to fix it…I should have listened to my cousin when she told me to take the car in for a checkup last month…who told Johnny to break his arm in the middle of soccer practice?…Arrgh! Why does my life suck? Why do I suck?
But within this meaningless chatter, there can be gems.
How often do you have an interesting thought? A fun daydream? A fascinating idea that inspired you to do something new or work hard at a project?
How many of these thoughts slip away without you noticing and capturing and acting on them?
A lot of writers complain that they don’t know what to write about, but if you pay more attention to your thoughts, you will have more than enough ideas to write hundreds of articles.
Why are these UNusual tips?
You may or may not have heard some of these above ideas before, but I can almost guarantee that most readers have not actually DONE them all. That’s what truly makes them UNusual.
But if you are willing to take time and listen — to good music, to intelligent and wise opponents, to your own thoughts — you will become a more intelligent writer and human being.
Writers ought to be the best listeners on the planet.
We have to listen in order to know what interests the people we want to reach. We have to listen in order to know what to write about.
So do something right now to practice your listening. Put on some Bach, pause and consider what kind of thoughts you are having now. Next time someone argues with you, don’t shoot something back right away.
Pause. Listen. Grow more intelligent.
And you will be a writer with ideas worth listening to.
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