Further background information on "Rhetoric"

Chatterbox, gossip, busybody, pompous know-it-all, braggart, babbler, - they can talk at length, excessively and enthusiastically. What they cannot do is rhetoric. For this is the first rule of rhetoric: impress your listeners and draw them over to your side.

Rhetoric can be learned, provided there is a willingness to do seemingly absurd exercises:

  • Talking with a cork in your mouth
  • Repeating monstrous sentences
  • Breathing exercises

Training the voice is a key element in improving rhetoric. Whoever wants to be understood must be able to speak articulately and without a strong regional dialect. Speech mistakes such as a lisp or a the mumbling of words can be corrected with the help of specific exercises, because the muscles of the face, jaw, tongue and neck are responsible for making sounds. Breathing causes the vocal chords to vibrate, paired with the movements of the lips, throat, tongue and palate, sounds and thus letters, words and sentences are created. In order to achieve a good tone rhetorically, one can also work on the basic elements of sound formation.

  • The right words,
  • a convincing performance,
  • a good impression

these are the aspirations associated with effective rhetoric in general. The prerequisite for all these competencies is a broad vocabulary. Whether you have a sophisticated use of language or a restricted range of vocabulary - what has been learned has been learned. A craftsman doesn't understand the academic and no teacher can bear a conversation between paramedics unless it is personally relevant. In order to express onself appropriately, the first question is: who is listening? Then comes the second question: what do I want to achieve?

In order to be a good craftsman, the language must fit: it's horses for courses! Academic education is often presented by means of appropriate terminology in the respective context and, depending on the industry, that or the other rule applies. For example, IT experts like to speak in abbreviations and in Denglish, while humanities scholars are concerned with words of German and Latin origin. A connection sometimes sounds better than a context, and to create a connection is the same as achieving understanding. Or does the word consensus sound better? The right words are always found by those who decide for one or the other because they know that the target group likes to hear such things. To be rhetorically up to date, reading, reading, and more reading helps.

TIP: Don't be intimidated by words that sound complicated. Many foreign words come from Latin and are easy to translate. Technical terms always belong to a certain discipline. Those who use them want to make sure that their counterparts can have a say. Technical and foreign words are sometimes also an attempt at discrimination. You show your self-confidence by asking for their meaning. And it is already clear whether your counterpart knows what he or she is talking about.

Rhetoric is characterized by its stylistic devices that can be chosen to make an impression, surprise or get to the heart of a matter. A prerequisite for the use of stylistic devices is the learning of their function. For example:

  • Oxymoron = silent chatterbox (two opposites)
  • Tautology = never ever (doubling)
  • Euphemism = waste disposal facility instead of rubbish dump (whitewashing)

It is advisable to use only those stylistic devices that are suitable for the person. Those who like to speak clearly should refrain from onomatopoeia. Those who deal with people who have little sense of humour will not get a laugh with "wet rain". Likewise, exaggerated constructions such as "In the evening all but Zacharias work" are only suitable in exceptional cases.

On special occasions a speech or a discussion should be prepared in a very targeted way, including the selection of rhetorical means. Anyone who calls himself a "key account manager" in a job interview would do well to emphasize their affinity with the industry. However, he or she makes himself or herself interesting when the next sentence refers to "personal customer service" or "individual consultation with important customers". Thus it becomes clear that the term is not simply being parroted, but has actually been internalized and adapted to one's own linguistic universe. Showing flexibility with language is also an expression of education and intelligence.