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The Art of the Gentleman's Speech

What we say in life, echoes in eternity. Here is a masterclass in gentleman's speech that will bring the best in your voice ethos.

By Raja Izz

From left: YBM Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah, YM Raja Tun Tan Sri Dato Seri' Utama Muhammad Alias (right top), YM Raja Tan Sri Dato Seri Arshad (right bottom)


Being a gentleman isn't just about being well-mannered, well-dressed, and chivalrous (though those are nice touches). It's also about how you carry yourself, and a large part of that is in your speech.

The words we choose and how we deliver them hold immense power. For a gentleman, communication transcends mere information exchange; it's an opportunity to leave a lasting impression with grace and impact. Here's how to cultivate the art of speaking like a true gentleman:

1. Master the Melody of your Voice:

  • Clarity is King: Speak clearly and enunciate well. Avoid rushing your words. A measured pace allows listeners to absorb your message.

  • Volume Matters: Project your voice without shouting. A gentleman is heard, not overheard.

  • Inflection is your Ally: Vary your vocal pitch to keep your audience engaged. A monotone delivery can be forgettable.

2. Choose your Words Wisely:

  • Expand your Vocabulary: A rich vocabulary allows for precise expression. However, avoid using complex words as it can sound pretentious.

  • Avoid Slang and Offensive Language: Maintain a professional and respectful tone. A gentleman elevates the conversation, not cheapens it.

3. The Art of Conversation:

  • Be an Active Listener: Pay attention to what others are saying and respond thoughtfully. This shows respect and genuine interest.

  • Ask Thought-Provoking Questions: Engage your audience and encourage them to participate in the conversation.

  • Let Others Shine: Don't dominate the conversation. A gentleman allows others to share their thoughts and opinions.

In an address to Congress on "Urgent National Needs" on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy called for America to send astronauts to the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the decade./NASA


Case Study: The Power of Finesse - President John F. Kennedy's "Urgent National Needs Speech"

President John F. Kennedy's 1961 speech to Congress raised the bar on what it takes to communicate like a gentleman. Let's analyze how he incorporates the elements mentioned above:

Clarity and Conciseness: JFK outlines a clear goal - landing a man on the moon - within a specific timeframe. He then lays out the challenges and proposed solutions in a concise manner.

Articulation and Pronunciation: JFK's delivery is clear and confident. He enunciates each word precisely, making his message impactful.

Vocabulary and Delivery: While JFK avoids overly technical language, he uses powerful verbs like "accelerate," "develop," and "explore" to convey a sense of ambition and progress. His confident tone and body language add gravitas to his words.

Positivity and Respect: JFK acknowledges the difficulty and expense of the mission but focuses on the potential rewards. He uses inclusive language like "entire nation" and "we" to inspire a sense of shared purpose.

Let's dissect a key passage:

"...I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. ..."

Here, President Kennedy's passage is a masterclass for several reasons:

1. Setting a Bold Goal:

He doesn't propose something easy or achievable in the near future. Landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade was audacious and captured the imagination of the nation.

2. Framing the Challenge:

He acknowledges the significance for humanity ("impressive to mankind") and scientific progress ("important for long-range exploration").

He doesn't shy away from the difficulty ("so difficult") or cost ("expensive") - honesty builds trust.

3. Powerful Language:

"Commit itself" emphasizes a national endeavor, not just a government project.

"Before this decade is out" creates a sense of urgency and a clear timeline.

From left: YBM Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah, YM Raja Tun Tan Sri Dato Seri' Utama Muhammad Alias, YM Raja Tan Sri Dato Seri Arshad

Beyond Western Ideals: Lessons from the Eastern Nobleman

While the concept of a gentleman is often associated with Western culture, the principles of respectful and impactful communication transcend geographical boundaries. In Southeast Asia, nobleman figures like YM Raja Tan Sri Arshad Raja Tun "Sir" Uda (Chairman of PNB), YM Raja Tun Dato' Seri Utama Muhammad Alias bin Raja Muhammad Ali (Ex-FELDA Chairman), and YBM Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah (bureaucrat & technocrat) are admired for their eloquence and grace. They used measured and slow pace, and well-placed humor to engage his audience while delivering their message with clarity and purpose. Leaders like these demonstrate that a gentleman's speech is about class and substance.


Speaking with finesse is a skill that anyone can cultivate. By focusing on clarity, vocabulary, and active listening, you can become a more engaging and influential communicator. A gentleman words are not just sounds; they are instruments to lead, inspire, and leave a lasting positive impact.

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