Philosophical Psych-Outs: Practical Eloquence Techniques

This past week, students from Prof. Parmach’s Philosophy class and Prof. Annunziato’s Psychology class participated in Philosophical Psych-Outs: Practical EP Techniques. Eloquentia Perfecta (EP) is a Jesuit tenet meaning “right reason expressed effectively, responsibly, and gracefully.” The purpose of the event was to show how Eloquentia Perfecta is one lens through which we develop as students in the Jesuit tradition.

The program started with an exercise that involved writing a poem that included the following information: your full name, nickname, three hobbies, four traits, and a life quote. Each Manresa Scholar  presented his or her poem on stage, and we were asked if it was uncomfortable to us. The exercise demonstrated the classical Greek model in which public speaking permeates daily life. Speech permeates who you are. 

Even if we don’t feel like public speaking “pros” just yet, our public speaking skills will improve over time with practice and preparation. Speeches do not always take place on a stage, or in front of an audience. They can take place in many different forms. We practice public speaking with family, in religion, in our civic life, and in business. There is a variety in the types of speeches that can be made, whether they are analytical, persuasive, or argumentative.

We discussed the importance of the public speaking acronym SPATE (stance, poise, articulation, tone, and eye contact). Following SPATE helps you to be more effective and affective at public speaking. Effective speaking means that your argument is clear. Affective means that it is impactful and meaningful.  We discussed the ancient Greek statesman and orator Demosthenes and his methods. In order to improve his skills, Demosthenes would recite things with a rock in his mouth. Inspired by Demosthenes’ methodology, three brave students volunteered to recite the Pledge of Allegiance with a mouth full of gumballs.

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In another exercise, one student had to direct another to unscrew an Oreo cookie and eat off the icing. Once the exercise started, the class realized this seemingly easy task was much more difficult than imagined. The student giving directions was not allowed to start over if they made a mistake. This was difficult because we tend to speak vaguely, and only when we realize that confusions arise do we go into more detail.

Next, we read a selection from Aristotle’s Rhetoric, which discusses the art of persuasion, which is necessary for effective and affective speech. In groups, we read through magazines and discussed whether or not we thought the articles were effective and/or affective. At the end, we were asked what concrete steps we as students will take to be both effective and affective speakers. 

One of Aristotle’s famous maxims is: “Seldom deny, rarely affirm, always distinguish.” Through this program, Manresa Scholars strengthened their Eloquentia Perfecta skills of making proper distinctions while speaking.

Brooke Evans, FCRH 2020
Manresa Scholar

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