Article Category: Flashback Friday

The Ladder of Abstraction and the Public Speaker (Flashback Friday #21)

On Fridays, we dip into the Six Minutes article archive in search of one of the most memorable articles. We’ll dust it off, shine a light on it, and consider it from a new perspective.

Today’s Flashback Article

The Ladder of AbstractionThis week, we’re reaching back to September 2013 to learn about the ladder of abstraction and what it means for public speakers.

The ladder of abstraction is a concept created by American linguist S. I. Hayakawa in his 1939 book Language in Action. It describes the way that humans think and communicate in varying degrees of abstraction. The top of the ladder is for abstract ideas and concepts (i.e. up in the air), while the bottom of the ladder is for concrete things (i.e. well-grounded). To be an effective speaker, you must climb up and down the ladder of abstraction.

Of the hundreds of articles on Six Minutes, this may be the one which has helped me the most in my journey as a public speaker and as a communicator. I hope it will help you too, especially the practical tips for how to climb up and down the ladder.

Read the full article, and share your insights about the ladder of abstraction in your presentations:


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