How to Speak How to Listen | Mortimer Adler

How to Speak How to Listen | Mortimer Adler

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

Nice addition to How to read books by Adler. Give sound framework to organizing speaking in almost any circumstances: instructional speech (schooling), persuasive speech (on a podium), conversation.

🎨 Impressions

Could be useful only if you know what are you looking for.

How I Discovered It

In Zettel community, Maxim introduced it to the crowd.

Who Should Read It?

Teachers, interviewers, and people who speak a lot.

☘️ How the Book Changed Me

I am thinking at the moment, how to upgrade framework of discussion club sessions and school lessons.

✍️ My Top 3 Quotes

Everyone, when they are young, has a little bit of genius; that is, they really do listen. They can listen and talk at the same time. Then they grow a little older and many of them get tired and listen less and less. But some, a very few, continue to listen. And finally they get very old and they do not listen anymore. That is very sad; let us not talk about it.
Gertrude Stein, as reported by Thornton Wilder

📒 Ideas

  • Ability to listen is not a natural gift, but an acquired skill. Nobody teaches it, though they should.
  • From Antiquity, Plato and Aristotle thought that students should be proficient in liberal art before they could achieve status ob Bachelor.
    • Bachelor means that you are sufficiently initiated in the art of learning, and can proceed with it on your own.
  • Seven liberal arts:
    • Grammar.
    • Rhetoric.
    • Logic.
    • Arithmetic.
    • Geometry.
    • Music.
    • Astronomy.

If a student can write and read fluently, it doesn’t mean that he will do the same in speaking and listening. It’s strictly speaking not true. He must first learn how to conduct a conversation in a fluid and easy manner.

Communication is born in a community and hence, we must set conditions for a good conversation thanks to grammar, logic, and rhetoric.

Rhetoric by Aristotle

  • Rhetoric is the most important of the tree. The situation, where we have to persuade ourselves, are rare. When we need to persuade somebody else, rhetoric could be of enormous help.
    • It can help align the ideas of the listener with what we are talking about at the moment.
    • It is of practical value, aimed at the specific result:
      • a course of action to be adopted.
      • Judgment to be made.
      • Attitude to be taken towards another person or group.
  • Aristotle pointed out three main tactics to do that:
    • ethos.
      • With this we present ourselves. It means character in Greek.
    • Pathos.
      • With this, we have to arouse passion in listeners. Add emotions to the speech, get them running in your listeners.
        • Human desires that you can count on are: look at another list, which contemporary scholars have produced [[Терминальные ценности старшеклассников]]
          • liberty.
          • Justice.
          • Peace.
          • Pleasure.
          • Wordly goods.
          • Honor.
          • Good repute, position, and preference.
    • Logic.
      • Use good reasoning behind your ideas. Good arguments easily reinforce emotional cocktail and the power of the speaker’s personality.
    • Kairos.

[[Риторика Аристотеля]]


Speaker must avoid lengthy, involved arguments. Make them brisk and accurate.

  • Avoid rhetorical questions wherever possible.
    • Those are question that has only one answer.
  • The key skill of a teacher is the ability to dramatize the moments of discovery. This gives discovered information importance. Without performance, there is no true learning.
    • That’s why, to me, the classroom is the stage where I am an artist.
    • It also rhymes well with Claude Shannon surprizal feature of information.
      • [[Теория информации]]
  • Be physical.
    • The topic is abstract, the more expressive body language must be, to compensate hard academic topics with easiness of body language.
      • Voice.
      • Stance.
      • Gestures.
      • Movements of the head, arm and body.

Body language somehow solidifies what you have in mind and makes it more profound and manifest correctness.

  • Organize the speech keeping in mind taxis, three component parts.
    • Introduction. Get attention. Use specific language for that. State what came for. Say in a loud and clear voice, simple forceful sentences, without hesitation or backtracking. Make a summary of an intro. Make the transition to the next part.
    • Main body. Keep to the plan that has been outlined in the intro part. Successively present the topic, one leads to another, logic must be visible. Make a summary of the main body. Make the transition to the next part.
    • Closing. Brief summary. Avoid lengthy conclusions at all costs. It kills the meaning of the conclusion.
  • Second thing you should control is lesix. Language style, words uttered. Avoid ambiguity, if it is unavoidable in the use of certain definitions be sure to explain what you mean, with two or three words that are related.
    • Rules of style: easy but hard to follow
      • Language employed and sentence constructed should be clear without being plain.
      • Must be elevated above casual speech without being obscure.
  • Note-taking before delivering the speech is an important part of ethos and logos. Rare person can speak comprehensively and consistently without notes, even rarer the ability to elaborate on a complex topic without notes. It means careful preparation is advised.
    • Notes can take the form of an outline.
    • Can be schematic, as a mindmap is.
    • Can be made in the form of cards.

Use key phrases for a brief skeletal. Topical phrasing is even briefer. The more skeletal, the more topical, the better.

The middle ground is something between written speech and skeletal outline, something with difficult passages that are written in the form of an outline.

  • Delivered speech must-have qualities of:
    • Well-preparedness.
    • Impromptu.
  • You only have 30 minutes to catch the attention of the listener.
    • Keep in mind the limitation of listeners limitations. He can’t go on forever.
      • Plan your lectures with regard to the time it would take to deliver them.
        • Golden standard is an hour and a half with a break after the first fifty minutes.

The demanding listener

The demanding listener looks like the demanding reader. Ask questions, interrogate the author, but in both cases silently. He suspends judgment for the time being. ^35510f

  • Questions to ask are following: #howto conjoin with how to read
    • What is a whole speech about? Essence that speaker tries to deliver.
    • What are the main, pivotal ideas, conclusions, and arguments? Look for special terms, key phrases, unusual terminology.
    • Are the speaker’s conclusions sound or mistaken? Analyze arguments and reasoning. Are they carried far enough, adequate or inadequate?
    • What of it? What consequences follow out of the conclusion?
      [[Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes are High#^e50939]]

Speaking and listening, when properly conjoined, is possibly the best way to write a book. You feel it yourself after an especially good discussion club meeting. You already have enough material for a book. Just need to look carefully and find what is interesting.

The art of discussion

Students should be taught in the art of discussion. It will help them to be engaged in the lecture, give them useful communication skills. But it all must be taught in a controlled and safe environment.

If a speaker is provided with an opportunity to control the discussion, he should open the session with a question to the listeners about who is going to participate in the discussion. By doing that, the speaker is dividing those who are seeking the answer from those who are planning on challenging the speaker.

  • If misunderstanding is at hand, the first question to ask is: «Do I understand you to say that …?»
    • No point in solving objections that arise from misunderstanding.
  • To advance the discussion further, after somebody stated an opinion, the speaker can ask two types of questions:
    • Let me see if I understand the question you are asking. And let me do some restating your question as follows. To relinquish misunderstanding.

When the goal of the discussion is an instruction, then listeners should remember to keep two objectives in mind:

  • To be sure that they fully understand what they have heard.
  • Challenge the speaker in such a way, so the answer that is given could be agreed or disagreed on.