Lin Yu­tang on the Art of Speak­ing

林语堂谈说话的艺术

Special Focus - - Contents - Hu Chang­bai胡长白

When a man reaches a cer­tain age, be­ing funny is the high­est com­pli­ment he can re­ceive.

Lin Yu­tang was reck­oned as one of the truly amus­ing men of his time. “Life is just a life. Do and cher­ish what you have at the mo­ment.” This fa­mous line was orig­i­nated from the old gen­tle­man Lin, who re­ceived his mas­ter’s de­gree at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity and a doc­tor­ate at Leipzig Uni­ver­sity.

Schol­ars like Lin are more likely to dwell on all liv­ing be­ings and the world, fo­cus­ing on rou­tines and un­cer­tainty, as well as com­mon peo­ple and their sub­tleties. For in­stance, Lin ob­served how or­di­nary peo­ple spoke in their daily life, and wrote a book en­ti­tled TheArtof

Speak­ing . Based on his Chi­nese and for­eign ex­pe­ri­ences, Lin high­lighted some im­por­tant tips for speak­ing.

Man­ners of Speak­ing

The first prin­ci­ple is to be sin­cere in speak­ing. Con­fu­cius stressed that speak­ing must be supremely hon­est to thrill the lis­ten­ers. Aris­to­tle’s rhetoric of per­sua­sion in­volved three el­e­ments: cred­i­bil­ity, logic, and emo­tion— and cred­i­bil­ity ranks first. The sec­ond is to be re­fined and po­lite. A drop of honey can catch more flies than a gal­lon of venom can kill. The third is that we should re­spect and treat oth­ers with equal­ity. It’s no good to have a long face, or to grin cheek­ily in speak­ing. The for­mer is not lovely while the lat­ter is not re­spectable.

Strate­gies of Speak­ing

The key point in speak­ing in­volves the word “Yes” be­ing given pri­or­ity. That is, to say “Yes” more, and to praise and ap­prove of oth­ers more. It is more rea­son­able to em­brace the com­mon ground first and then to ex­press dif­fer­ences, con­tra­dic­tions, con­flicts, and de­bates. In brief, it is more im­por­tant to seek com­mon grounds be­fore dis­cussing dif­fer­ences. In or­der to ver­ify it, Lin of­fered the fol­low­ing five sug­ges­tions:

First, every­one has dig­nity, so we should learn to keep other’s dig­nity and face. Sec­ond, most quar­rel­some guys are fools. Third, crit­i­cism and re­buke can only in­vite re­sis­tance. Fourth, your seem­ingly clev­er­ness will arouse oth­ers’ stub­born­ness— trig­ger­ing in­dif­fer­ence, frus­tra­tion, and even self- aban­don­ment. Lastly, “yes” is fa­vored not to please and flat­ter some­one, but to live by real­ity and truth.

With the boom­ing of com­mu­ni­ca­tion sciences, real­ity and truth in to­day’s world co-

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