Inspirational Living: Life Lessons for Success & Happiness

The Art of Speaking Eloquently | How to Speak Well

August 27, 2019

Listen to episode 400 of the Inspirational Living podcast: The Art of Speaking Eloquently | How to Speak Well. Edited and adapted from Personal Efficiency by James Samuel Knox.

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Today’s podcast has been edited and adapted from Personal Efficiency by James Samuel Knox, published in 1920.

Very few people have ever been taught how to talk well, how to express themselves effectively. Yet every person would greatly profit by a good course of instruction in public speaking — for as Elbert Hubbard once said: “Truth badly spoken dies and dries and blows away, while a lie well launched sometimes lives for ages." How true that is! It certainly took the world a long time to believe in the truth of democracy and human rights, and to recognize the falsehoods of tyranny and autocracy.

According to William Jennings Bryan, the greatest compliment any speaker can pay to the subject they are discussing is to tell the truth about it and tell it effectively. In other words, to know the truth is a great asset in itself, but to be able to tell it with skill and power is to greatly add to one's influence in a community.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, who knew a thing or two about public speaking, said that the work of eloquence is to change the opinions of a lifetime in twenty minutes. A thorough knowledge of one's subject is the beginning of such eloquence — for the great public speaker is the one who inwardly digests facts and whose speech, therefore, becomes a living product. Or as Socrates said: "Every person can speak eloquently on that which they clearly understand," while Benjamin Disraeli added: "Eloquence is logic on fire." Another way to express the same idea would be to say that eloquence is facts on fire, because logic is based upon facts.