Matt Abrahams – Professor, Podcast Host, Author, Speaker, and Martial Artist

Matt Abrahams

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNING

Click here to see transcripts by episode.  Just select the episode you want and scroll down to see the transcript.

Jacob Morgan

December 26

cement (verb)

Definition: to make something stronger 

Example from the episode: “And then I also heard you say we have to think about the stories that we tell ourselves and the stories that we tell others. to really help cement our intention for what it is we’re striving to achieve.” 

Example sentence: “He wants to cement his place in the team with excellent performances.” 

competence (noun) 

Definition: being good at something or having the skills to do it well 

Example from the episode: “In the class I teach, we talk a lot about warmth and competence and how you have to balance those out.” 

Example sentence: “Sarah showed her competence by finishing the project early.” 

implicit (adjective) 

Definition: understood but not directly said or explained 

Example from the episode: “And in the second scenario, the relationship is implicit.” 

Example sentence: “The rules were not stated, but they were implicit.” 

level the playing field (idiom)

Definition: to make a situation fair for everyone 

Example from the episode: “And one of the visuals that I have in the book is this idea of leveling the playing field.” 

Example sentence: “Free education aims to level the playing field for every child.” 

Alia Crum

December 12

thrive (verb)

Definition: to grow, develop, or be successful 

Example from the episode: “How do we help people thrive and function under stress?” 

Example sentence: “Business can thrive in a healthy economy.” 

upbringing (noun) 

Definition: the way your parents or guardians raise you from when you’re a baby to when you become an adult 

Example from the episode: “I just mentioned that a lot of what I employ in my life to be a good communicator, be as high functioning as I can, comes from my upbringing and learning from him around centering and working with energy and connecting to one’s highest purpose.” 

Example sentence: “The sisters had a very traditional upbringing.” 

debilitating (adjective) 

Definition: making someone very weak or sick 

Example from the episode: “That’s what we’ve been focused on. And what we’ve found is that if you kind of go back into those core assumptions, what you realize is that most people have the mindset that stressful situations are inherently debilitating.” 

Example sentence: “The flu was so debilitating that I couldn’t leave my bed.” 

loom large (idiom)

Definition: something appears big, important, or threatening, especially regarding a future event or situation 

Example from the episode: “When it comes to communication, stress and anxiety loom really large.” 

Example sentence: “Global warming continues to loom large over our environmental concerns.”

Dorie Clark

December 5

harness (verb)

Definition: to use something available for a particular purpose 

Example from the episode: “But you’ve just helped give me, because I suffer from this significantly in my life, you can actually harness that.” 

Example sentence: “We can harness the wind’s power to generate electricity.” 

reputation (noun) 

Definition: what others think or say about a person, a company, or a thing based on their past actions or qualities 

Example from the episode: “That’s really all it is, because having a good reputation generally is a useful thing in business and in life.” 

Example sentence: “His rude behavior damaged his reputation.” 

mindful (adjective) 

Definition: paying careful attention to something or thinking about others and their feelings 

Example from the episode: “And to your point, Matt, about leverage, one of the things that I always like to be mindful of is it’s hard out there.” 

Example sentence: “She’s mindful about spending her savings wisely.” 

boil down (idiom)

Definition: to simplify something to its most basic parts 

Example from the episode: “And I like to actually just kind of boil it down and make it simple.” 

Example sentence: “Their argument boils down to a simple misunderstanding.” 

Shane O’Mara

November 28

augment (verb)

Definition: to make something bigger or better 

Example from the episode: “But you have to suppress your own tendency to want to augment the question.” 

Example sentence: “He used a microphone to augment his voice during the presentation.” 

rapport (noun)

Definition: a friendly connection or relationship where people understand and communicate well with each other 

Example from the episode: “And a whole variety of data now show that if you’re able to establish a condition of rapport with another individual, that is, you engage in active, respectful listening.” 

Example sentence: “He has a strong rapport with his mentor.” 

evocative (adjective)

Definition: able to bring strong images, feelings, or memories to mind 

Example from the episode: “And allowing people through the use of evocative language to journey backwards, to re-center in the present, and then imagine that the future is going to be better than the present is I think something that the great orators kind of intuit already.” 

Example sentence: “The evocative smell of freshly baked bread reminded her of her grandmother’s kitchen.” 

get a bad rap (idiom) 

Definition: being judged or criticized unfairly 

Example from the episode: “I think gossip gets a bad rap.” 

Example sentence: “Snakes get a bad rap, but most are not dangerous.” 

Matt Abrahams

November 21

leverage (verb)

Definition: to use something you have to help you do something more easily 

Example from the episode: “One of the best ways to be concise and clear is to leverage structure.” 

Example sentence: “They aim to leverage social media for marketing.” 

misnomer (noun)

Definition: a name that doesn’t properly fit what it describes 

Example from the episode: “Small talk, I think, is actually a misnomer.” 

Example sentence: “Naming that peaceful dog ‘Killer’ is a complete misnomer.”

reflexive (adjective)

Definition: automatic or without thought 

Example from the episode: “These are simple, reflexive ways to get started, but they actually don’t take you very far.” 

Example sentence: “He nodded his head without thinking, like a reflexive ‘yes’ during the talk.”

run its course (idiom) 

Definition: when something has finished or ended naturally 

Example from the episode: “As you’re drawing near to the end of the conversation, either because you need to leave, you want to leave or the conversation has sort of run its course.” 

Example sentence: “The meeting ran its course in just 30 minutes.” 

Szu-chi Huang

November 14

embark (verb)

Definition: to begin something, often a journey or trip 

Example from the episode: “And when I get really excited with friends and others, and we’re going to go embark on this if it’s doing some kind of exercise or losing weight, and after I’ve been doing it a little while, I do get that insecurity, like, can I keep this up?” 

Example sentence: “She’s excited to embark on her new project.” 

guts (noun)

Definition: being brave, especially when something is scary or difficult 

Example from the episode: “And you teach a class, and I love the name, it’s called ‘The Brains and Guts of Decision-Making’.” 

Example sentence: “You need guts to speak in front of a large crowd.” 

counterintuitive (adjective) 

Definition: something that doesn’t seem right or make sense at first, but is actually true or correct 

Example from the episode: “Oh, I love counterintuitive things.” 

Example sentence: “For some, being kind to those who hurt you may sound counterintuitive.”

zero-sum game (idiom) 

Definition: when someone’s win is someone else’s loss, like sharing a cake – if you get more, others get less 

Example from the episode: “So I have worked more directly look at actual competitions, zero-sum games, where there is an incentive or reward and you have to beat others to get it.” 

Example sentence: “War is a zero-sum game; one country’s victory often means another’s defeat.” 

Julian Treasure

November 7

hone (verb)

Definition: to make something better or sharper 

Example from the episode: “And in particular, you give guidance on how to nurture and hone our voice.” 

Example sentence: “By practicing daily, you can hone your cooking abilities.” 

listing (noun)

Definition: items written down one after another in a list 

Example from the episode: “Ask what’s the listing.” 

Example sentence: “Please check the listing for all the items you need.”

majestic (adjective) 

Definition: very big, beautiful, and impressive 

Example from the episode: “But I think Ken, because he combines humor, often very self-effacing humor, and storytelling in such a majestic way.” 

Example sentence: “She wore a majestic crown on her birthday.” 

slippery slope (idiom) 

Definition: when one small action or decision could lead to a bigger problem or situation 

Example from the episode: “And the absence of listening, the absence of conscious listening, tends to put us on a slippery slope, which is enormously accelerated, I think, by the current technology that surrounds us.” 

Example sentence: “Once you start telling lies, it can become a slippery slope.” 

Patrick McGinnis

October 31

outsource (verb)

Definition: to ask someone outside of your group, like another company, to do some work for you 

Example from the episode: “I just go with what they say, and so the more that you do that, you outsource simple decision-making in your life, you actually build up a muscle around decision-making and FOMO that is very powerful.” 

Example sentence: “Mary suggested that we outsource some tasks to be more productive.”

aspiration (noun)

Definition: a big dream or goal that you really want to achieve in the future 

Example from the episode: “It’s great, in a sense, because it means that we want more and we have aspirations.” 

Example sentence: “Jane has a strong aspiration to learn the piano.”

inadequate (adjective) 

Definition: not good enough or not enough of something 

Example from the episode: “We don’t know if we would like to go to this place or do that thing, but we create a best case scenario, just like we put filters on social media, and then we compare our present condition to those things and we feel inadequate.” 

Example sentence: “His performance was inadequate for the team.” 

in jest (idiom) 

Definition: joking or not being serious 

Example from the episode: “Yeah, FOMO is, it’s a word that we use in jest a lot.” 

Example sentence: “He made the comment in jest, not meaning to upset anyone.” 

Matt Abrahams

October 24

envision (verb)

Definition: to imagine or see something in your mind, like a picture or dream 

Example from the episode: “I find it helpful to envision mistakes as missed takes in the making of a film.” 

Example sentence: “She couldn’t envision herself as a doctor.” 

oomph (noun)

Definition: the power and energy that makes things exciting and fun 

Example from the episode: “My punches might have looked good, but they lacked enough oomph.” 

Example sentence: “The coffee gave me the oomph I needed to start the day.”

elegant (adjective)

Definition: beautiful and graceful in a simple way 

Example from the episode: “He doesn’t worry about presenting his every idea in a pre-planned way that his audience will perceive as elegant or perfect.” 

Example sentence: “The hotel had an elegant lobby.” 

hit a wall (idiom)

Definition: you’ve reached a point where you can’t keep going or improve because something is too hard 

Example from the episode: “I once went through a period when I hit a wall – metaphorically, not physically – and didn’t know what to do.” 

Example sentence: “If you hit a wall in your painting project, take a rest and try again later.” 

Tina Seelig

October 17

enlighten (verb)

Definition: to teach or explain something to someone, making them understand it better 

Example from the episode: “Tina has become a good friend and continues to mentor and enlighten me.” 

Example sentence: “Can you enlighten me on how to use this machine?” 

intervention (noun)

Definition: stepping in to help someone when they are having a tough time and need some support 

Example from the episode: “You can have as many because of that, that’s essentially the consequences of your intervention.” 

Example sentence: “He needed an intervention to stop his gaming addiction.”

provocative (adjective)

Definition: making people feel excited or curious 

Example from the episode: “In fact, I usually like to start with a question, a provocative question, because it very clearly engages the audience in thinking about, wow, how would I answer that question?” 

Example sentence: “Her art style is very provocative and unique.” 

from the get go (idiom)

Definition: right from the very beginning 

Example from the episode: “And what’s so cool about the story spine is that it really invites that creativity from the get go.” 

Example sentence: “From the get go, the book was extremely interesting.” 

Todd Rogers

October 10

accommodate (verb)

Definition: to help someone by adjusting to their needs 

Example from the episode: “So we need to write in a way that reflects and accommodates the reality that people are skimming what we write.” 

Example sentence: “Can you accommodate my request for vegetarian meals?” 

gist (noun)

Definition: the main point or key idea of something you read, hear, or see 

Example from the episode: “And so when we watch with eye tracking, we see the people dart around and they try to get the gist of what we’re saying without reading it closely.” 

Example sentence: “I missed the lecture. Could you give me the gist of it?”

incoherent (adjective)

Definition: not clear or is hard to understand 

Example from the episode: “People read them both and thought it was incoherent in the shorter one because we just arbitrarily deleted paragraphs.” 

Example sentence: “The book’s plot was incoherent. I could not follow it.” 

the jury is still out (idiom)

Definition: people have not made a decision or final opinion about something yet 

Example from the episode: “I think the jury is still out literally and figuratively, so thank you.” 

Example sentence: “The jury is still out on whether technology improves learning in the classroom.” 

Frances Frei

October 3

incentivize (verb)

Definition: to encourage someone to do something by offering a reward 

Example from the episode: “It needs to be motivational and incentivize people to want to strive for it.” 

Example sentence: “John’s mom tried to incentivize him with ice cream to do his homework.” 

analogy (noun)

Definition: a way of explaining something by comparing it to something else 

Example from the episode: “I love a good analogy.” 

Example sentence: “In his speech, James often used sports as an analogy for life challenges.”

redundant (adjective)

Definition: extra or not needed because you already have one 

Example from the episode: “The problem is the more difference we have, the less common we have, and everything that you and I have in common is a little redundant.” 

Example sentence: “Having two similar machines in the factory is redundant.” 

common ground (idiom)

Definition: something that two or more people agree on or share together. 

Example from the episode: “We look for the common ground, and that sounds so good.” 

Example sentence: “The common ground among us is our love for art.”

Dan Klein & Adam Tobin

September 26

convey (verb)

Definition: to pass or give something from one person to another 

Example from the episode: “So Dan looked inquisitive and Patricia looked knowing and through our bodies and voices, we’re conveying lots of information.” 

Example sentence: “She conveyed her message clearly.” 

takeaway (noun)

Definition: the main point or lesson you get from a story or situation 

Example from the episode: “So Dan, what was the takeaway you had from our last conversation so long ago?” 

Example sentence: “The takeaway from this experience was to never give up.”

spontaneous (adjective)

Definition: doing something suddenly without planning it 

Example from the episode: “And one of the things that I think people find really ironic or confusing is you can actually prepare to be spontaneous.” 

Example sentence: “They decided to take a spontaneous trip to the beach.” 

a leap of faith (idiom)

Definition: deciding to believe in or do something, even though you’re not sure what will happen next 

Example from the episode: “For many people listening, that can sound really daunting to take that leap of faith that you’ll get there.” 

Example sentence: “I took a leap of faith when I started a business.” 

Jenny Luna

September 19

strive (verb) 

Definition: to work hard to reach a goal 

Example from the episode: “When we strive to be great, when we strive to be right or perfect in our communication, it actually prevents us from doing it well at all.” 

Example sentence: “She strives to learn a new word every day.” 

gratitude (noun) 

Definition: being thankful for the things you have 

Example from the episode: “The first word that comes to mind is gratitude.” 

Example sentence: “I expressed my gratitude to my teacher for helping me.”

mediocre (adjective) 

Definition: just okay, not bad but not really good either 

Example from the episode: “These students have never been told to be mediocre.” 

Example sentence: “The food at this restaurant is mediocre.” 

in the hot seat (idiom)

Definition: being in a situation where you are asked many tough questions or face a lot of pressure 

Example from the episode: “’ I’m in the hot seat.” 

Example sentence: “Since Linda came late, she was in the hot seat at today’s meeting.” 

Adam Tobin & Dan Klein

September 12

paraphrase (verb) 

Definition: to express the same ideas or information in different words 

Example from the episode: “I’m a big fan of paraphrasing, such that you hear the information and demonstrate you heard the information.” 

Example sentence: “Could you please paraphrase what you just said?” 

mantra (noun) 

Definition: a short saying or phrase that is said over and over again to help focus your mind 

Example from the episode: “Be obvious is the most powerful, creative mantra that there is.” 

Example sentence: “She wrote her favorite mantra on a sticky note and put it on her mirror.” 

authentic (adjective) 

Definition: real and true 

Example from the episode: “We need to allow ourselves to play and discover and be authentic.” 

Example sentence: “It requires courage to remain authentic and honest.” 

put somebody on the spot (idiom) 

Definition: to ask somebody a difficult question they don‘t know the answer to 

Example from the episode: “It’s just when we get put on the spot.” 

Example sentence: “She put him on the spot with an unexpected question.” 

Kim Scott

September 5

solicit (verb) 

Definition: to ask for something in a polite way 

Example from the episode: “You start by soliciting feedback, asking for feedback about yourself.” 

Example sentence: “He solicited help from his friends.”

instinct (noun) 

Definition: something that helps animals and people do things without having to think about it

Example from the episode: “Instead, it’s my instinct to go the wrong way on challenge directly.” 

Example sentence: “I had an instinct that something was wrong.” 

radical (adjective) 

Definition: doing something extreme or different

Example from the episode: “And that caring and challenging don’t sound so radical.” 

Example sentence: “His speech contained some radical ideas.” 

not all sunshine and roses (idiom) 

Definition: not everything was perfect or easy 

Example from the episode: “But of course, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.” 

Example sentence: “It wasn’t all sunshine and roses when I had to move to a new city.”

Katy Milkman

August 29

persist (verb)

Definition: to keep doing something even if it‘s difficult or you don‘t like it 

Example from the episode: “And it turns out that’s a mistake because if we aren’t finding it gratifying in the moment to pursue our goals, we tend not to persist.” 

Example sentence: “His willingness to persist made him successful.” 

barrier (noun)

Definition: something that blocks you from moving forward 

Example from the episode: “What are some of the barriers that you’ve identified and worked with?” 

Example sentence: “Language is a barrier for many immigrants.” 

concrete (adjective)

Definition: very clear and easy to understand 

Example from the episode: “A really concrete example would be, think about going to the gym.” 

Example sentence: “His reasons for the decision were concrete.” 

skin in the game (idiom)

Definition: having something to lose by making a choice so that we are encouraged to make the best decision 

Example from the episode: “But you can do the same thing to incentivize yourself to follow through on your best intentions so that when temptation strikes, there’s more skin in the game, there’s more consequence if you give into it.” 

Example sentence: “Having skin in the game will make it harder to give up.” 

Carmine Gallo

August 22

complement (verb)

Definition: to add something to make it complete 

Example from the episode: “PowerPoint or a presentation complements the story, but you have to craft the narrative first.” 

Example sentence: “The shoes complement the dress nicely.” 

advocate (noun)

Definition: someone who speaks up for an important issue and uses their voice to help it 

Example from the episode: “So not only is he a good role model, he’s a good advocate for what you and I both do.” 

Example sentence: “They are advocates for better health care.” 

concise (adjective)

Definition: using few words to express a clear and complete idea 

Example from the episode: “As Amazon grew in complexity, his writing became simpler, more concise, easier to understand, and that’s intentional.” 

Example sentence: “Their report was concise and only included the facts.” 

head and shoulders above (idiom) 

Definition: to be much better than most other people 

Example from the episode: “If you can master those three ingredients, you’ll be head and shoulders above the vast majority of business professionals.” 

Example sentence: “In the competition, she stood head and shoulders above the others.” 

Muriel Wilkins

August 15

resonate (verb) 

Definition: to affect someone emotionally in a special way
Example from the episode: “The piece of art will resonate with you differently depending on the frame that is around it.”
Example sentence: “His speech resonated with the crowd.”

assumption (noun) 

Definition: a belief that something is true before checking if it is correct
Example from the episode: “And then lastly, I would say it is about checking your assumptions before opening your mouth.”
Example sentence: “His assumption led him to the wrong conclusion.”

credible (adjective) 

Definition: believable or truthful
Example from the episode: “I love this idea of credible and relatable.”
Example sentence: “His story sounded very credible.”

a two-way street (idiom) 

Definition: a situation where both sides must do their part
Example from the episode: “And it’s a little complex because it’s a two-way street.”
Example sentence: “A marriage is a two-way street.”