An Effort to Understand: Hearing One Another (and Ourselves) in a Nation Cracked in Half

An Effort to Understand: Hearing One Another (and Ourselves) in a Nation Cracked in Half

by David Murray
An Effort to Understand: Hearing One Another (and Ourselves) in a Nation Cracked in Half

An Effort to Understand: Hearing One Another (and Ourselves) in a Nation Cracked in Half

by David Murray


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This new collection of essays from rhetoric authority and celebrated writing blogger David Murray applies his signature blend of humor and heart to a free-wheeling conversation about how we communicate in America

“An insightful book packed with wonderful writing, practical advice, and hope for a better, kinder future.” —Jonathan Eig, author of King: A Life

You’re ready to give up. Throw up your hands and walk out the door. You don't know what else to say—to some dear family and close friends, let alone the crazy strangers that seem to populate half the country. You're ready to read An Effort to Understand.

But don’t worry. This is not a book about civility.

Instead, David Murray (blogger, speechwriter, rhetoric authority, and professional curmudgeon) is urging readers to join him in a near-spiritual movement, one that pushes us to consider communication as more than a means of persuading others to our way of thinking, but as a way of thinking all its own.

With his signature blend of wit, warmth, and four-letter words, Murray’s essays tackle subjects from the specter of cancel culture and the responsibilities of citizenship to the art of dealing with annoying neighbors and the challenges of talking to kids about injustice. His words show that the personal and political gulfs between us are small compared to our common desire to connect.

It may be a last-ditch effort, but Americans have a chance at trust, peace, and solidarity if we make an effort to speak more honestly and listen to understand.

Because when it comes to communication, we’re all the bad guys. Thankfully, we have a chance to be the good guys too.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633310483
Publisher: Disruption Books
Publication date: 03/02/2021
Pages: 225
Sales rank: 1,088,175
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

David Murray heads the global Professional Speechwriters Association and comments daily on communication issues on his popular blog Writing Boots. He is an award-winning journalist and is editor and publisher of Vital Speeches of the Day, one of the world’s longest continuously published magazines. He is the author of Raised By Mad Men, a memoir about his advertising parents, and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Tell My Sons: A Father’s Last Letters. The son of two writers, Murray grew up in Hudson, Ohio, and studied English at Kent State University before moving to Chicago to make his own writing life. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Cristie Bosch, and daughter, Scout Murray.

Table of Contents

Introduction: What Is "An Effort to Understand"? 1

I Life, Communicated 11

Communication Is Everything You Do and Everything You Never Do 17

Communicating Is Hard Because Being a Person Is Hard 20

Ask for What You Want 23

Communication Can Bring Us Together, Even in Mutual Appreciation of How Far We Are Apart 25

In Communication, Your Enemies Are Your Friends 28

When I Get Tired of Listening to the Living, I Talk to the Dead 30

If You Know How It's Going to Turn Out, It's Not Communication 33

In Communication, the Style Is Part of the Substance 35

"Civility" Is Not Communication 39

II Talking Heads: An Empty Limousine Pulled Up, and America's Leaders Got Out (and Read Prepared Remarks) 43

Talking with the Poor, and Communicating with the Rich 48

Authenticity as the New Eloquence 52

Communication Is Action! 55

The Unbearable Weight of Gravitas 59

If I've Told You a Thousand Times, I've Tol'd You Once 63

Your People Aren't Any More Cowardly and Selfish Than You Are 64

Once Upon a Time … A Story about Rhetorical Pink Slime 66

Real Leadership 73

III What Our Leaders Need from Us (Hint: They Need Us to Grow Up) 75

Follow the Leader? 79

Speaking Truth to Power: Talking to Myself 83

An Open Letter to the "Man in the Arena" 86

Our Leaders Have Plenty to Be Vague About 90

We Deserve Leaders Who Act Like They Like Us 93

"Because They Know, They Understand" 95

Civics Is as Civics Does 103

IV We, Citizen: American Patriots Don't Call Their Fellow Americans Nasty Names 105

Other Life, Not So Far Away 109

We'd Get Along Better if We Listened Better-to Ourselves 115

Do You "Vote Your Interests" 117

Hey, Washington: This Can Go All the Way Bad 119

Republicans Have Feelings, Too 121

Universities Are Not Safe Spaces 123

What's Really "Deplorable"? Taking Communication Out of Context 126

We Know Bullshit Is Bad for Us, but We Love the Taste 129

Talking about Money Is Talking about Feelings 132

Why I Like Politicians 135

And Seriously: Stop Calling the People Names 138

V Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: Communicating with Your Colleagues 141

Working on Eggshells 146

Real Bonding in a Virtual World 150

Tech, as in Wreck 156

Rhetoric and Bullshit: The Difference 161

Kids Learn about Sex from Each Other-but How Do They Learn about Work? 163

Working with the Enemy 166

VI First, Do No Harm: Communicating with Acquaintances and Strangers 169

Privileged Is a Fighting Word 173

Why We Don't Like Environmental Nags, Even Though They're Right 176

Ghosting Is a Crime Against Humanity 178

It's Called "Decorum," and It's Not the Worst Thing in the World 180

Speaking of Decorum, Did You Know Chicago Has Three Streets That Rhyme with Vagina?* 183

A Handshake Means Never Having to Text I'm Sorry 185

"Sniper, Take Out the Subject": Killing the Conversational Assassin Within Us All 187

Do You Tell Stories to Connect with People or to Keep Them Away? 190

VII Wanting and Beloved: Communicating with Our Families and Our Friends 195

Marital Communication Is Wiping Your Eyes in a Monsoon 198

Words Hold People Together 201

It's Easy to Communicate with Your Kids-at First 205

Communication Works Best in Large Doses 207

Stay Away from People Who Hate You, Even if They Love You, Too 209

Love Thy Neighbor (and Like Him, Too) 210

Elder, Respect Thyself 214

Healed for Life 217

The Painful Intimacy of Saying You're Welcome 219

There Must Be a Better Word Than Grief 221

Conclusion: Communicating with Yourself 225

Acknowledgments 229

References 233

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