Book Review: Kevin Tsai’s Way Of Speaking (蔡康永的说话之道)

Kevin Tsai book

I’ve enjoyed Kevin Tsai’s and Dee Hsu’s hosting of 康熙來了(Kang Xi Lai Le) – too bad the show has ended after more than a decade on television. As Dee has frequently referred to Kevin’s book, I decided to locate a copy and attempt to read all those traditional Chinese characters. If you know of the existence of a version in simplified Mandarin or better yet, a translated version in English, please let me know. My speed-reading skills have been severely hampered by the way the book is presented – just like Chinese comics, back to front, and read from right to left, the exact opposite of what I’m used to.

In this post, I’ll share some of the learning points I’ve acquired from (slowly) reading his book. I’m reading slowly not by choice, obviously. Haha! Do note that some phrases and thoughts just lose much of their original intended meaning when translated into English. Take the title of the book, for instance, <蔡康永的说话之道>, which can only loosely and inaccurately be translated into ‘Kevin Tsai’s Way Of Speaking’ (which I found on

Also, how does one explain what Kevin meant by “说话之道” versus “说话之術”, which he claims has very different connotations? In any case, I’ll do my best here. Apologies in advance if my interpretations of his work fall short. Mandarin’s not exactly my strong suit but I do love the language – it’s actually quite beautiful. 🙂

By the way, this (speaking skills) book has made Kevin one of the richest Chinese writers, and according to the website, helped him earn over US$700,000 in royalty income. Can you say “WOW”? 😀 Not that he needs the money, obviously, because the talkshow already pays very well, and Kevin is from a rich (elite) family. I respect him a fair bit because he’s not just learned, but he’s also courageous. He has come out of the closet years ago and said he is gay. I think more gay people should follow in his footsteps. If you want society to accept who you are, and the lifestyle you lead, and not discriminate against gay people, then you’ll have to OWN this fact (that you are gay), and just proudly state it as a matter of fact and show you have nothing to hide. Step out and say “I’m gay. So?” and you’ll find that people (even the critics) will have to just start minding their own business.

And I might be wrong, but I think that Kevin’s sexuality allows him the freedom of understanding both ‘worlds’ – the male worldview, and the more feminine / emotional / sensitive ‘world’ that is usually associated with women. Thus, he seems to always know what are the right things to say. For instance, when a woman asks a man whether she is looking fatter these days, the man might have to pause and wonder if she’s asking him a trick question, what her response might be if he’s honest with her, and what he’ll have to say in order to get away with lying. For someone like Kevin, the answer is almost always very prompt and a straightforward denial “Of course not. You’re so slim! Why would you even ask that question?!” and the woman ends up feeling really happy. Yes, we’re superficial like that. Most of us just want to hear only the good things. 😀

Here are some learning points from the book (It’s Book One. There’s a Book Two out as well)…

  1. Consider what the listener wants to hear, not what you wish to say.
  2. You are what you say.
  3. Dee Hsu: “There’s a fine line between being yourself and being rude. Give genuine praise, not unwelcome criticism”.
  4. Pass on praise from other people, instead of trying too hard yourself.
  5. Your words define you. For instance, would you rather be seen as a naggy housewife or a kawaii girlfriend?
  6. Likeability is more important than looks. For instance, what would you do if you are invited to a gathering with friends and dinner involves Japanese food which you do not enjoy? Remember: the reason for your friends’ existence is not to serve you.
  7. Music is better than forced conversation, and it also changes the mood.
  8. Know how to “lose” and hand unnecessary victories to others. It is better to lose an argument than to be hated for winning one. Don’t force an apology or admittance of defeat from someone. Maintain love between the couple; don’t make a fuss over winning or losing an argument.
  9. See people as equals.
  10. Maintain eye contact in moderation.
  11. Don’t obsess over the meal; have a good conversation.
  12. Get unstuck; change the topic.
  13. Concrete questions lead to effortless answers. Be specific in your questioning. Ask about a topic that you have something interesting to share about too.
  14. People want to find others who understand them.
  15. Everyone wants to talk about themselves. Be a good listener. See if you can avoid using “I” and “me” in your conversation. Indulge your friends – let them say all that they want to.

I’m not done with the book yet. So I’ll update this blog again later. It’s so much easier to blog in English than to read a book in Chinese. Muahaha! 🙂

*p/s: I’m not sure why Kevin uses an umbrella as a prop for his book cover shoot. Perhaps the answer will be revealed later in the book. 😉