Rhetoric & Homiletics: Want To Be More Effective? – Go Analytical!


Average Speakers May Not Know Why Others Are So Effective:  Go Analytical

I was listening to a CBS interview of Malcomb Gladwell1 and was — and was not — surprised by a comment he made in the interview.

The interview was related to an online service called “Master Class.”  Gladwell did one of the “Master Class Series” titled, “Malcomb Gladwell Teaches Writing.”  Then several months ago, I had listened to his twenty-four “Master Class” sessions.

In the CBS interview concerning his contribution to the “Master Class Series,” Gladwell says this (audio link) . . . . .


If you’re a writer, you have to start exploring other ways of reaching your audience.

That’s why I do the podcast, that’s why I wanted to do Master Class. It’s because I don’t think you can — that if I only write books, I feel I’ll lose contact with our large portion of the population

Host: What did you learn about being intentional and think about how to teach writing — what did you learn — or did you learn anything about your own process and your own writing?

What’s funny is that I never .. I never reflected about it before . . . . I never thought about — I never thought people would say — Do you have a process — and I would say — You know — I never thought about it — I just do it.

So for the Master’s Class . . . I actually stepped down and as I prepared for doing it — I thought well . . . how do I approach the task of writing . . . and so it was really an interesting kind of moment . . . It’s like being on the couch of the shrink . . . you know . . . you get a window into your own mind for the first time.


“For the first time” — Yes, doing and knowing what you are doing are two different mental levels of thinking.

Gladwell went “analytical” to explain what he does when he writes.  Many artists, performers, comedians, athletes, poets, salespeople, authors, bloggers, speakers, and preachers are effective in his or her field, but they may not fully understand what they are doing.  They have never gone “analytical” — thought about their thinking!

Gladwell, by his own admission, falls into that category.  It was not until he had to step back and think about what takes place mentally, that he was able to quantify what he does.

The interview goes on to ask Gladwell this question — Aren’t you worried in doing that Master Class series on writing, that someone will take what you are laying out and using it to imitate you — to do books, podcasts, or articles following your approach?

Gladwell responds . . . .

“I’m so old it doesn’t matter.   People can copy me — its fun.”

However, that is exactly the point I have made over the years.  If you can quantify what is being done, you can imitate it — not plagiarize it, but learn from how it is done, and do it yourself with a similar approach and/or expanded version of the same — and you can use the same “technique” when dealing with a completely different topic, passage, illustration!

As you listen to that message or speech, your mind will be stimulated to think “out-of-the-box.” You will be stimulated to think about how that speaker is approaching the passage he is speaking on. You can do “the how” – what he did – but with a completely different passage or topic — your passage or topic.

That is really what “rhetorical techniques” are all about! Listening to speakers, teachers, or preachers and grasping what they are doing — NOT what they are saying, but what they are doing with that topic or verse. The interest is not in mimicking a speaker’s words, but the thought process which he/she exemplifies, exhibits, or “exhausts” / “exudes.”

It does not matter what they are talking about or what passage of Scripture they are preaching or teaching from. What matters is “the how.” How do they go about working with that passage or verse? Can I go about what I am talking about like they are? As you multitask, you will nd your mind “generating” others ideas and methods of developing content on a passage which has nothing to do with his/her’s subject, theme, topic, or passage.


Some Of The Best Speakers
May Not Fully Understand What Makes Them Effective!



Nevertheless, Learners
Should Be On A “Master Class” Journey
To Explore “The Why.”



1. Malcomb Gladwell is worth your time.  He is a professed believer and well-known as a writer, speaker, and author of six books, all on the NYT Top Sellers list.

Link: Interview by Oprah Winfrey

2.  Gladwell has just begun his fourth season of these podcasts, after a hiatus.


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