HOW TO SPEAK/HOW TO LISTEN by Mortimer J. Adler

HOW TO SPEAK/HOW TO LISTEN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

How to belabor the obvious: a clearly written but dully prosaic manual offering reams of uninspired advice. Veteran teacher that he is, Adler can give a good exposition of somebody else's ideas, e.g., the central notions of ethos (presenting oneself favorably to an audience), pathos (stirring their emotions), and logos (building an argument) from Aristotle's Rhetoric. But his own contributions tend to be either clichÉs or lifeless, humorless schemata. He makes do-good-and-avoid-evil suggestions like, ""Don't be a pushover for persuasion, but at the same time do not erect insuperable barriers to being moved by it""; and he breaks down all conversations into the categories of playful va. serious, with the latter dividing into the subcategories of personal va. impersonal, and impersonal talk falling into the subsubcategories of theoretical vs. practical--as tidy and banal a set of conceptual boxes as one could wish. The art of listening similarly consists in asking four tediously self-evident questions: ""What is the whole speech about?"" ""What are the main. . . ideas, conclusions, and arguments?"" ""Are the speaker's conclusions sound or mistaken?"" And, finally, ""What of it?"" Adler occasionally nudges past predictability, as when he tells speakers to risk going over the heads of their audience; but he soon falls back into pedestrian exhortation (""Beware of examples. They often prove too much or too little and they are seldom perfectly relevant""). For naive beginners only.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1983
Publisher: Macmillan