Grow Your Confidence with Toastmasters in Ningbo

This is an my first column published in Ningbo Focus magazine.

Madam Toastmaster, Ladies and Gentlemen…”, is how many speeches start at a Toastmasters club meeting. Two years ago when I arrived in Ningbo there was only one club with 5 guests. In 2015 there are five Toastmasters clubs, who meet regularly, from Book City to Ningbo University to University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Members deliver speeches to enhance their Communication. They take roles in the club e.g. president, treasurer, or meeting roles like Timer or Ah-Counter, to enhance their Leadership skills. Worldwide there are over 14,000 clubs and in China the rate of growth has been tremendous since launching in 1999.

Chuck Tidiane Ndiaye Toastmaster in NingboNingbo is a prime example of this growth with over 100 people who regularly attend meetings. Some clubs focus on Chinese Mandarin, some are English only, and many are bilingual. So why do people join Toastmasters in Ningbo besides the obvious learning environment?

What we learn in Toastmasters is really useful in our life. With all the presentation and communication skills I’ve learned in Toastmasters, I managed to enter one of the largest private companies in Ningbo and then start my own business. Toastmasters has helped me find my passion.” says Weiwei Yang, former president of Ningbo #1 Toastmasters club.

Many of my Chinese friends are not from Ningbo or Zhejiang. Some like Nina are from Hunan, and others like Lillian are from Gansu province in the north West of China. Toastmasters allows them to make high quality friends, sometimes with foreigners like me. The members of the clubs are all interested in personal development, they are confident and lead by example.

In fact the most popular phrase we use is “learn by doing” and every activity in a Toastmasters meeting reminds you of this. It’s a safe place where you can make mistakes and correct them easily. There are no teachers and everyone may provide some form of feedback either verbal, on the stage, or in a written form. The agenda for the meetings are followed closely because “time” is one of the most important values in our meetings. By being on time, it shows respect to your audience.

Ningbo University Toastmasters club China District 85It turns out Toastmasters helped me to reduce my culture shock after moving to China. The people I’ve met have become my best friends. The activities are always fun and my confidence around Chinese people has improved tremendously. The value of this group increases over time.

To join one of the next meetings, simple email add me on Wechat: rjthomas

 

Cyber Infidelity – The New Seduction

Online dating is one of those things that the Internet was made for: People trying to meet people for love and sex in the supposed privacy of their homes. Cyber Infidelity is a book by Dr Eve, who’s real name is Dr Marlene Wasserman based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s South Africa’s answer to the American Dr Laura, and is known for her regular radio talk shows.

We first met when I conducted my second survey about online dating and online sexuality in 2006.

Recently she sent me a copy of her book, Cyber Infidelity ISBN 978-0798171182. It’s my pleasure to review this book.

Cyber Infidelity the New Seduction by Dr EveCyber Infidelity is very readable, perhaps because of the topic of infidelity which usually sparks curiosity across the gender lines. It’s also a good read because of the personal stories it contains, which provide deep insight into the motivations why people choose to find lovers and sexual partners online in this day and age.

The first three chapters lay a very good base for modern relationships. The Internet has transformed the way we conduct ourselves not only in business but also in the most intimate spaces of our bedrooms. As a couples therapist, Dr Eve shares insights into the rapid changes in behaviour.

Chapter 5 describes the triple A engine: affordable, anonymous, accessible. This is the pivotal factors differentiating online infidelity from offline infidelity. You can say it’s the difference between cheating before the Internet and after the Internet and mobile phones became so easily accessible.

Sometimes it feels like Dr Eve is encouraging the infidelity. On page 169 she reveals a shocking statistic: over 75% of relationships that begin through an affair end in divorce. The chapter on porn habits is eye-opening. A few surprises may be learned from the porn watching habits of women, which is not commonly discussed as the stigma sees porn as the problem of (lonely) men.

The stories in this book reminds me of those I first read in Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden. They are at once confessions, revelations and sometimes sad. They show what’s missing from the relationships and why the myth of “settling down” is so unsatisfactory.

The topic of infidelity raises curiosity our own personal natures. To what extent are we still living in a monogamous society with the rise of the Internet, social media and mobile phones?

Dr Eve aka Marlene Wasserman in her Cape Town office as a sex therapistOne of my favourite aphorisms in this book is that “shame and blame are the twin sisters of guilt.” The Ashley Madison website is where the author collected much of her first hand accounts of cyber infidelity. The customers of this website are not ashamed to share their innermost fantasies. So do you blame them for choosing to engage in cyber infidelity, which many times does not lead to an offline meeting? [After this book was published, AshleyMadison.com was hacked and some shocking facts about the female users were released.]

One of the radical facts emerging from the book, is that women are much more sexually liberated than before the rise of the Internet.

There are few surprises in in the statistics because they are all from English speaking countries. Perhaps a sequel may include comparison with China and India, which together account for probably half the Internet users in the world, and vastly different cultural norms. It would be fascinating to evaluate how the Internet has changed the sexual behaviour of these nations.