Friday, December 16, 2011

Points about Speaking and Listening from a Master Communicator

Mortimer J. Adler's How to Speak How to Listen makes several instructive points for the practical person seeking a theoretical framework as well as the novice professional speaker and meeting participant. These suggestions also connect well to writing at work.

Adler suggests an order for introducing into a presentation Aristotle's time-tested tripartite of persuasion as follows: ethos (credibility), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic). In addition, he examines two indispensable considerations of speech preparation, once again borrowing from Greek: taxis (the structure) and lexis (the language).

Some of his observations are memorable:
  • "Always risk talking over (your audience's) heads."
  • "Truly great books ... are the few books that are over everybody's head all of the time."
  • In speeches, "On the one hand, the language employed and the sentences constructed should be clear without being plain. On the other hand, they should have a certain elevation above the ordinary without being obscure."
  • "The most prevalent mistake that people make about both listening and reading is to regard them as passively receiving rather than actively participating."
  • "To disagree before you understand is impertinent. To agree is inane."