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An Encouragement To Speak Well

Aug 17, 2007
Generally it is the people with the higher native intelligence, in the army those with the highest army classification scores, who have the keener and wider interests and the richer grip on their subjects. The level of intelligence tends to produce a corresponding level of grasp and variety for all topics of conversation. It is probably true that no satisfactory conversational rapport or affinity is possible between people of widely separated intelligence levels.

Genius and moron would seem never to be conversationally compatible. A two horsepower mind can probably never develop sufficient range and depth to stimulate a six horsepower one.

Friendship between people so divergent in talents is never likely to be conversationally stimulating enough to survive a common and specialized interest.

But our Lord spoke of a talent range of one to five. Hence, even if groupings or friendships between extremes are avoidable, groupings of people in adjacent talent ranges cannot well be and ought not to be avoided.

In such, while there is certainly a divergence of talent, it is not so great that the right training in conversational method and manner, the proper cultivation of interests, cannot bridge the difference for a happy talking life. Aside from sex, what seems to draw people together more than anything else is their manner and range of conversation.

And much which even in marriage passes for incompatibility is really nothing but conversational disparity, often a correctable disparity. Conversational compatibility is conditioned not merely by native intelligence but by many other things. It is a reflection of one's training, character, interests, experiences -- all of which can be changed and improved, so that what once seemed to many a dull personality can come to seem an interesting one to virtually everybody.

Everyone has heard it said of someone, "My, how he's improved. In high school he used to be such a drip. Now he is one of the sparks of the party." Whatever the change, it is certain that it is his manner of talking that is making it evident.

In short, it seems true to say that conversation is the most complete single expression of one's personality. It is the mirror of a person's and a group's and a country's sum total of decency, knowledge, and culture -- their explicit, composite character. Hence, it is the duty and the lifelong job of everyone to keep raising its tone and liveliness -- in himself and in his community.

Within the boundaries of one's intelligence, everyone can improve his conversation in several ways. He can improve it technically -- in grammar and rhetoric, diction and voice; in variety, richness, and liveliness; and, most importantly, in what St. Paul calls "gracious-ness," in Christian lovableness and good taste, so that whether he talks or listens, people are glad of it, and are better off for his being there.

To improve the reader in all these three ways, sometimes facetiously, generally seriously, as the spirit and the matter move, is the purpose of the following chapters. If you read them with reasonable will and attention, you ought to be laying a new foundation for a happier and richer talking life than you have ever enjoyed before.

You ought in any case to pick up at random a great many hints and guides that will at least here and there correct a fault or increase a virtue. And in conversation even the smallest improvement, extended over a long talking life, becomes a significant gain. Your circle of friends and acquaintances, too, without perhaps ever realizing it consciously, should come to think of you as an even more charming and likable person than they probably already think you are. Even your family should consider it more than ever a treat when you relax and just talk with them.
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