How to Speak How to Listen | Mortimer J. Adler

Summary of: How to Speak How to Listen
By: Mortimer J. Adler


Welcome to the enlightening world of ‘How to Speak How to Listen’ by Mortimer J. Adler. In this captivating summary, you’ll explore the importance of human communication and the art of effective speaking and listening. Adler highlights how these essential skills, despite being overlooked in modern education, play a central role in persuasive communication, enriching relationships, and fostering understanding. Embrace the sage advice on the cornerstones of communication, including grammar, rhetoric, and logic, and discover the relevance of ethos, pathos, and logos in persuasive speech. Get ready to enhance your conversational capabilities and transform information exchange, whether it’s in your personal or professional life.

Effective Communication for Improved Operations

Mortimer Adler, a renowned philosopher and academician, refused an offer from a corporate giant to further his theories on speaking and listening. He recognized the importance of communication, even for businesses, and advised Macy’s on making their conferences efficient. Adler’s insights serve as a reminder that effective communication can be the foundation of successful operations and increased profits for organizations.

The Art of Communication

Effective communication involves writing, reading, speaking, and listening. While reading and writing instruction starts earlier, conversational skills remain neglected in classrooms. The most crucial form of communication is two-way conversation, involving both speaking and listening. In medieval times, listening was a vital skill as students had to learn through lectures. The book argues for the revival of this lost art and stresses the significance of active listening in today’s world of constant distractions.

The Lost Art of Rhetoric

Ancient Greek philosophers believed rhetoric, grammar, and logic were necessary for quality education. In the modern era, rhetoric and logic are no longer emphasized in schools, and grammar is gradually losing popularity. However, these three skills remain essential for persuasive communication. Rhetoric goes beyond salesmanship and involves practical persuasion and instructive speech. It is crucial for engaging individuals, excelling in public speaking, and convincing others ethically. Improving writing skills is not enough to become proficient in conversational abilities. To speak and listen effectively, one must understand the art of rhetoric.

The Art of Conversations

Renowned philosopher René Descartes posited that conversations are what make humans unique. The ability to share thoughts and emotions, argue, and deliberate freely is a hallmark of human community. Conversations can either be controlled or uncontrolled, having a particular objective or free-flowing. Conversations can also be of different types, including social, heart-to-heart, instructive, or practical conversations that persuade. However, effective communication is dependent on choosing the right time, place, and participants and understanding the kind of conversation wanted and the topics under discussions. Interruptions are ill-mannered while polite listening, objective truth, and striving to comprehend other positions take precedence. Mastering the art of conversation is essential in maintaining enduring and meaningful relationships.

The Elements of Persuasion

Aristotle’s treatise explains that ethos, pathos, and logos are three essential elements of persuasion. Ethos concerns character and is necessary to establish credibility. In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare illustrates how both Brutus and Marc Antony use ethos, pathos, and logos to persuade the public. Antony first employs ethos to capture their attention and trust, then uses pathos to stir their emotions, and finishes with logos, providing a rational argument for action. Aristotle’s elements of persuasion are not only evident in history and literature but also in daily conversations, making them vital tools for communication. As Aristotle quotes, “engaging in good conversation – talk that is both enjoyable and rewarding – is one of the very best uses that human beings can make of their free time.”

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