As she finished her speech, the entire audience rose as a body and cheered. Over the din, the chair shouted. AlI those in favor, say ‘aye” and as one everyone roared “aye” as a testament to her lucid and persuasive argument. As she walked to her seat, people reached to pat her on the back, and who could not touch her chanted her name: “Sheila. Sheila. Sheila. Wake up,” Denny said as he shook her shoulder, “you’re supposed to be working on your speech.
Perhaps you have imagined yourself giving such a stirring speech that your audience cheered wildly at your persuasive powers. Although everything works well in our fantasies, our real-life attempts to persuade are not always so successful.Persuasive speaking, a process in which a speaker presents a message intended to affect an audience in a way that is likely to reinforce a belief, change a belief, or move an audience to act, is perhaps the most demanding speech challenge. Now let us turn to specific principles that are designed to help you increase the likelihood of achieving your persuasive speech goals. Then we will look a sample persuasive speech.
Principles of Persuasive Speaking
The following principles focus on what you can do to increase the probability of being an effective persuasive speaker.
Writing a Specific Goal
Principle 1: You are more likely to persuade an audience when you can articulate specifically what you want your audience to believe or do.
Your persuasive speeches are likely to be designed to establish or change beliefs or to move to action. Although a speech goal that is phrased to establish or change a belief may result in having listeners act upon that belief, your primary emphasis is on having them agree with you that the belief you present is reasonable. Here are some goal statements written specifically to seek audience acceptance of a belief.
• I want the audience to believe that the city should build a downtown entertainment center.
• I want the audience to believe that small schools are better for insecure students than are large schools.
• I want the audience to believe that the federal income-tax deduction for house-payment interest should be abolished.
• I want the audience to believe that the speed limit on all interstate highways should be raised to seventy miles per hour.
Notice that in each case you would be advocating what should or ought to be believed-not what audience members should or ought to do as a result of that belief.
Speeches designed to move an audience to action go beyond gaining agreement on a belief-they state exactly what you want your audience ro do. Here are some goal statement thats seck action:
• I want my audience to donate money to the food-bank drive.
• I want the members of my audience to write to their congressional representative to support legislation in favor of gun control.
• I want my audience members to attend the school’s production of Grease.
Adapting to Audience Attitude
Principle 2: You are more likely to be able to persuade when you direct your goal and your information to your audience’s attitude. An attitude is “a general or enduring positive or negative feeling about some person, object, or issue” (Petty & Cacioppo, 1996, p. 7). People’s attitudes are
usually expressed verbally as opinions. Thus, saying “I think physical fitness is important” is an opinion that reflects a favorable attitude about physical fitness. Because much of the success of a speech depends on determining how an audience is likely to react to your goal, you must find out where the audience stands. You make such judgments based on demographic information and opinion polls. The more data you have about your audience and the more experience you have in analyzing audiences, the better are your chances of judging audience attitudes accurately. Audience attitudes (expressed by opinions) may be distributed along a continuum from highly favorable to hostile. Even though any given audience may have one or a few individuals’ opinions at nearly every point along the distribution, audience opinion tends to cluster at a particular point. That cluster point represents the general audience attitude for that topic. Because it would be impossible to direct your speech to all the various shades of attitudes held by the members of your audience, you must classify audience attitude as predominantly “in favor” (already holding a particular belief), “no opinion” (uninformed, neutral, or apathetic), or “opposed” (holding an opposite point of view) so you can develop a strategy that adapts to that attitude. Now let us consider specific strategies for adapting to audiences. Suppose your goal is written, “I want my audience to believe that they should alter their intake of saturated fats.” As you will see, your assessment of audience attitude may affect how you phrase your goal and how you select your information.
In favor If you believe your listeners are already in favor of your belief, then you may want to change the goal to focus on a specific course of action. For instance, if members of your audience already favor limiting their intake of saturated fats, it would be a mistake to focus on changing their belief. What is likely to keep people who have a favorable attitude from acting is their lack of motivation. Your job is to provide a specific course of action around which they can rally. When you believe your listeners are on your side, try to crystallize their attitudes, recommit them to a particular direction, or suggest a specific course of action that will serve as a rallying point. The presentation of a thoughtful and specific solution increases the likelihood of audience action. Even when audience members are on your side, they may perceive what you want them to do as impractical. If so, they are likely to ignore your appeal regardless of its merits. For instance, if your goal is to have class members increase their exercise, taking the extra time necessary to exercise may seem impractical given their workload. However, if your on-campus facility has a nautilus room, you may be able to show them how they can increase their exercise by using otherwise “wasted” time between classes or before or after lunch, in which case they may see the practicality of your goal.
No opinion If you believe your listeners have no opinion, then you will focus on goals that establish a belief or goals that move the audience to action. If you believe your audience has no opinion because it is uninformed, the strategy should be to give enough information to help your audience understand the subject before you develop persuasive appeals directed toward establishing a belief or moving listeners to action. For instance, if you believe your audience is uninformed about the need to lower saturated fat intake, then early in the speech you need to define “saturated fat,” talk about how cholesterol is formed, and share medical evidence about its effects on the human body. Be careful about how much time vou spend on this informative part of the speech. If it takes more than half of your allotted time to explain what you are talking about, you may not have enough time to do much persuading.
If you believe your audience has no opinion because it is neutral, then you see your audience as being able to reason objectively and accept sound reasoning. In this case, your strategy will involve presenting the best possible arguments and supporting them with the best information you can find. If your assessment is correct, you stand a good chance of success with that strategy. If you believe your audience members have no opinion because they are apathetic, all of your effort may be directed to moving them out of their apathy. Members of your audience may know what saturated fat is, know how cholesterol is formed, and even understand the medical information of negative effects, but they may not seem to care. Instead of emphasizing the information with this audience, you would emphasize motivation. You will need less material that proves the logic of your arguments and more material that is directed to your listeners’ personal needs.
Opposed If you believe your listeners are opposed, then your strategy will depend upon whether their attitude is slightly negative or totally hostile. If you believe your listeners are slightly opposed to your proposal, you can approach them rather directly with your argument, hoping that its weight will swing them to your side. If your audience is slightly opposed to lowering their saturated-fat intake, you can present good reasons and evidence supporting the proposal.
Another part of your strategy should concern the presentation of arguments in ways that lessen your listeners’ negative attitudes without arousing their hostility. With a negative audience, take care to be objective with your material and make your case clearly enough that those members who are only mildly negative will consider the proposal and those who are very negative will at least understand your position. If you believe your audience is hostile toward your goal, you may want to approach the topic indirectly or to consider a less ambitious goal. To expect a complete shift in attitude or behavior as a result of one speech is probably unrealistic. If you present a modest proposal that seeks a slight change in attitude, you may be able to get an audience to at least consider the value of your message. Later, when the idea begins to grow, you can ask for a greater change. For instance, the audience may be comprised of people who are “fed up” with appeals to monitor their diets. If you believe your goal is important to them regardless of their negative attitude, then develop a strategy that will be more subtle. This will involve recognizing their hostility and talking about the topic in a way that will not arouse that hostility. Figure 18.2 summarizes the strategy choices we have reviewed for audiences with different attitudes toward your topic.
Giving Good Reasons and Evidence
Principle 3: You are more likely to persuade an audience when the body of your speech contains good reasons and evidence that support your speech gOJ!. Human beings take pride in being rational; we seldom do anything without some real or imagined reason. Since the 1980s, persuasive speech theory has focused sharply on persuasion as a cognitive activity; that is, people form cognitive structures to create meaning for experiences (Deaux, Dane, & Wrightsman, 1993, p. ] 9). To meet this audience need, the main points of a persuasive speech are usually stated as reasons-e-statement that tell why a proposition is justified (Woodward & Denton, 2000, p. 100).
Finding reasons Reasons are statements that answer why you should believe or do something. If you have expertise in the subject matter, you are likely to know some of the reasons. For example, if you are an exercise buff and you “want the audience to walk two miles at least three times a week,” you know that three of the reasons for walking are (1) to help us control weight, (2) to help us strengthen our cardiovascular system, and (3) to help us feel better.
For most of your persuasive speeches, however, you will want to do research to verify or discover reasons so that you can choose the best ones for your speech. For example, for a speech goal phrased “1 want the audience to believe that the United States should overhaul the welfare system,” you might discover these six reasons:
• The welfare system costs too much to maintain.
• The welfare system is inequitable.
• The welfare system does not help those who need help most.
• The welfare system has been grossly abused.
• The welfare system does not encourage recipients to seek work.
• The welfare system does not encourage self-support.
Once you have a list of possible reasons, weigh and evaluate them to select three or four good ones. Here are some criteria for evaluating possible reasons.
1. Good reasons can be supported. Some reasons that sound impressive cannot be supported with facts. For example, “The welfare system has been grossly abused” sounds like a good reason, but if you cannot find facts to support so strong a statement, either modify it or do not use it in your speech. You will be surprised at how many reasons mentioned in various sources have to be dropped from consideration for a speech because they cannot be well supported.
2. Good reasons are relevant to the proposition. Sometimes statements look like reasons, but they do not supply much proof. For instance, “The welfare system is supported by socialists” may sound like a reason for overhauling it to people who dislike socialism, but it does not offer any direct proof that the system needs overhauling.
3. Good reasons will have an impact on the intended audience. Suppose you have a great deal of factual evidence to back up the statement “The welfare system does not encourage recipients to seek work.” Even though it is a well-supported reason, it would be an ineffective reason to use in a speech where the majority of the audience did not see “seeking work” as a primary criterion for evaluating the welfare system. Although you cannot always be sure about the potential impact of a reason, you can estimate its possible impact based on your audience analysis. For instance, on the topic of welfare reform, some audiences would be more concerned with costs, equity, and abuses of the system.
The Spotlight on Scholars features Richard Petty’s research on attitude change and behavior.
Finding evidence to support your reasons By themselves, reasons ;1 rc only unsupported statements. Although some reasons are self-explanatory and occasionally have a persuasive effect without further support, most listeners look for factual statements and expert opinion to support the reasons before they will either accept or act on them. As we learned in Chapter 12, the best support for reasons is verifiable factual statements. Thus, if you give the reason “Alzheimer’s disease is a major killer” in a speech designed to motivate people to donate money to Alzheimer’s research, the statement “According to statistics presented in an article in a recent Time magazine, Alzheimer’s disease is the fourth leading cause of death for adults” is factual support.
Statements from people who have good reputations for knowledge on the subject represent expert opinions. An expert opinion to support the reason that “Alzheimer’s disease is a major killer” might be the statement, “According to the Surgeon General, ‘By 2050 Alzheimer’s disease may afflict 14 million people a year.'”
Whether your evidence is a supposed factual statement or an opinion, you will want to ask at least three questions to assure yourself that what you present is “good” evidence.
1. What is the source of the evidence? This question involves both the people who offered the opinions or compiled the facts and the book, journal, or source where they Were reported. Just as some people’s opinions are more reliable than others, so are some printed sources more reliable than others. If evidence comes from a poor source, an unreliable source, or a biased source, seek verification of it in other sources, or drop it from the speech.
2. Is the evidence recent? Products, ideas, and statistics are best when they are recent. You must ask when the particular evidence was true. Five year old evidence may not be true today. Furthermore, an article in last week’s newsmagazine may be using five-year-old evidence in the story.
3. Is the evidence relevant? Make sure your evidence directly supports the reason.
If it does not, leave it out of the speech.
Testing reasoning So far, we have concentrated on presenting good reasons and supporting them well. To test the validity of your reasoning more completely, however, look at the relationship between the reasons and the evidence given in support. When you do that, you can ask questions to test the logic of the reasoning. Several kinds of reasoning links can be established between reasons and their evidence or between reasons, evidence, and the speech goal.
1. Generalization from examples. You are reasoning by generalization from example when you argue that what is true in some instances/examples (evidence) is true in all instances (conclusion). Generalization links are the basis for polls and predictions. For example, here is a statement of some factual evidence, “Tom, Jack, and Bill studied and got Ks,” and the conclusion based on it is “Anyone who studies will get an A.” The reasoning link can be stated, “What is true in these representative instances will be true in all instances.” To test this kind of argument, you should ask, “Were enough instances (examples) cited? Were the instances typical? Are negative instances accounted for? If the answer to any of these questions is” 0,” the reasoning is not sound.
2. Causation. You are reasoning by causation when your conclusion is presented as the effect of a single circumstance or set of circumstances. Causation links are among the most prevalent types of arguments you will discover. Here is an example: “We’ve had a very dry spring” (evidence); “The wheat crop will be lower than usual” (conclusion). The reasoning link can be stated, “The lack of sufficient rain causes a poor crop.” To test this kind of argument, you should ask, “Are the conditions described by the data (evidence) alone important enough to bring about the particular conclusion? If we eliminate these conditions, would we eliminate the effect?” If the -answer to one of these questions is “No,” the reasoning is not sound. You can also ask, “Do some other conditions that accompany the ones cited in the evidence cause the effect?” If so, the reasoning is not sound.
3. Analogy. You are reasoning by analogy when your conclusion is the result of a comparison with a similar set of circumstances. Although reasoning by analogy is very popular, it is regarded as the weakest form of reasoning The analogy link is often stared, “What is true or will work in one set of circumstances is or will work in a comparable set of circumstances.” Here is an example: “Off-track betting has proved very effective in New York” (evidence conclusion). The reasoning link can be stated, “If something works in New York, it will work in Ohio because Ohio and New York are so similar.” To kind or argument, “Art the subjects really comparable? Are the subjects being compared really similar in all important ways?” If the answer to these questions is” 0,” the reasoning is not sound. You can also ask, “Are any of the ways that the subjects are dissimilar important to the conclusion?” If so, the reasoning is not sound.
4. Sign. You are reasoning by sign when your conclusion is based on the presence of observable data that usually or always accompany other unobserved variables. If, for example, you see longer lines at the downtown soup kitchen, the presence of that condition (longer lines) is usually or always an indicator of something else (the worsening of the recession), and we can predict the existence of this unobserved variable. Signs are often confused with causes, but signs are indications and sometimes effects, not causes. Longer lines at soup kitchens are a sign of the worsening recession. The longer lines may be an effect of a recession, but they do not cause the recession. To test this kind of argument, you should ask, “Do the data cited always or usually indicate the conclusion drawn? Are sufficient signs present?” If not, the reasoning is not sound.
Avoiding fallacies When you think you have finished constructing reasons, take a minute to make sure that you have not been guilty of any of the four common fallacies.
1. Hasty generalization. Because the instances cited should represent most to all possibilities, enough must be cited to satisfy the listeners that the instances are not isolated or hand-picked. Hasty generalization, presenting a generalization (perhaps a reason) that is either not supported with evidence or perhaps is supported with only one weak example, is a very common fallacy of reasoning.
2. False cause. False cause occurs when the alleged cause fails to be related to, or to produce, the effect. It is human nature to look for causes for events, but the tendency to identify and label something that happened or existed before the event or at the time of the event as the cause is often a fallacy. Think of the people who blame loss of money, sickness, and problems at work on black cats that ran in front of them or mirrors that broke or ladders they walked under. We recognize these as false cause superstitions.
3. Appeal to authority. Attempting to argue from authority can lead to the appeal to authority fallacy wherein the testimony is from a person who is not an authority on the issue. For instance, advertisers are well aware that the public idolizes athletes, movie stars, and television performers. Because of this, people are likely to accept the word of these famous folks on subjects they may know little about. When a celebrity tries to get the viewer to purchase a car based on the celebrity’s supposed “expert” knowledge, the argument is a fallacy.
4. Ad hominem argument. An ad hominem argument attacks the person making the argument rather than the argument itself. Literally, ad hominem means “to the man.” For instance, if Bill Bradley, the former U.S. senator as well as former New York Knicks basketball player, presented the argument that athletics are important to the development of the total person, the reply “Great, all we need is some jock justifying his own existence” would be an example of an ad hominem argument.
Such a personal attack often is made as a smokescreen to cover a lack of good reasons and evidence. Ad hominem name-calling is used to try to encourage the audience to ignore a lack of evidence, and it is often used in political campaigns. Make no mistake, ridicule, name-calling, and other personal attacks are at times highly successful, but they are almost always fallacious.
Organizing Reasons to Meet Audience Attitudes
Principle 4: You are more likely to persuade an audience when you organize your reasons according to expected audience reaction. Although speakers may create any organization for their speech, statement of logical reasons, problem-solution, comparative advantages, and motivational are common patterns you are likely to select for your persuasive speech organization. So that you can contrast the patterns and better understand their use, we will use the same proposition (specific goal) and the same (or similar) reasons to illustrate each pattern. Moreover, we will describe each pattern, show the audience attitudes for which it is most applicable, and describe the logic of the order.
Statement-of-logical-reasons pattern The statement of logical reasons is a straightforward organization in which you present the best-supported reasons you can find following an order of second-strongest first, strongest last, and other reason(s) in between. It will work when your listeners have no opinion on the subject, are apathetic, or are perhaps only mildly in favor or opposed.
Proposition: I want my audience to vote in favor of the school tax levy on the November ballot.
I. Income will enable the schools to restore vital programs. (second strongest)
II. Income will enable the schools to give teachers the raises they need to keep up with the cost of living.
III. The actual cost to each member of the community will be very small. (strongest)
In a speech using the sraternenr-of-logical-reasons pattern, the logic of the organization may be stated as follows: When good reasons and evidence are presented supporting a proposal, the proposal should be adopted.
Problem-solution pattern The problem-solution pattern provides a framework for clarifying the nature of the problem and for illustrating why a given proposal is the best one. The problem-solution pattern often is organized around three general reasons: (1) there is a problem that requires action, (2) the proposal will solve the problem, and (3) the proposal is the best solution to the problem because it will provide positive consequences. This pattern is also a srraightforward prcscnr.u ion of reasons, so ir is likely to work hest for a topic that is relatively unfamiliar to an audience-one in which they are unaware that a problem exists-or for an audience that has no opinion or is mildly pro or con. A problem-solution organization for the school tax levy proposition might look like this:
Proposition: I want my audience to vote in favor of the school tax levy on the November ballot.
I. The shortage of money is resulting in serious problems for public education. (statement of problem)
II. The proposed increase is large enough to solve those problems. (solution)
III. For now, a tax levy is the best method of solving the schools’ problems. (consequences)
In a speech using the problem-solution pattern, the logic of the organization showing the relationship between the reasons and the speech goal may be stated as follows: When a problem is presented that is not or cannot be solved with current measures and the proposal can solve the problem practically and beneficially, then the proposal should be adopted.
Comparative-advantages pattern The comparative-advantages pattern enables the speaker to place all the emphasis on the superiority of the proposed course of action. Rather than presenting the proposition as a solution to a grave problem, it presents the proposition as one that ought to be adopted solely on the basis of the advantages of that proposition over what is currently being done. Although this pattern can work for any audience attitude, it works best when the audience agrees either that there is a problem that must be solved or that the proposition is superior to its competitors when no particular problem is at issue For example, when people elect to eat out, they have a variety of choices, so a speech advocating “Le Petit France” would emphasize its advantages over its competition. A comparative-advantages approach to the school tax levy proposition would look like this:
Proposition: I want my audience to vote in favor of the school tax levy on the November ballot.
I. Income from a tax levy will enable schools to raise the standards of their programs. (advantage 1)
II. Income from a tax levy will enable schools to hire better teachers. (advantage 2)
III. Income from a tax levy will enable schools to better the educational environment. (advantage 3)
In a speech using the comparative-advantages pattern, the logic of the organization that shows the relationship between the reasons and the speech goal may be stated as follows: When reasons are presented that show a proposal is a significant improvement over what is being done, then the proposal should be adopted.
Motivational pattern The motivational pattern, the final pattern we will consider, combines problem solving and motivation. It follows a problem-solution pattern but includes required steps designed to heighten the motivational effect of the organization. Much of the thinking behind motivational patterns is credited to Allan Monroe, a professor at Purdue University. Motivational patterns usually include a five-step, unified sequence that replaces the normal introduction, body, conclusion model: (1) an attention step, (2) a need step that fully explains the nature of the problem, (3) a satisfaction step that explains how the proposal solves the problem in a satisfactory manner, (4) a visualization step that provides a personal application of the proposal, and (5) an action appeal step that emphasizes the specific direction listener action should take. A motivational pattern for the school tax levy proposition would look like this:
Proposition: I want my audience to vote in favor of the school tax levy on the November ballot.
I. Comparisons of worldwide test scores in math and science have refocused our attention on education. (attention)
II. The shortage of money is resulting in cost-saving measures that compromise our ability to teach basic academic subjects well. (need, statement of problem)
III. The proposed increase is large enough to solve those problems in ways that allow for increased emphasis on academic need areas. (satisfaction, J how the proposal solves the problem).
IV. Think of the contribution you will be making not only to the education of your future children but also to efforts to return our educational system to the world level it once held. (visualization of personal application)
V. Here are “Vote Yes” buttons that you can wear to show you are willing to support this much-needed tax levy. (action appeal showing specific direction)
Because motivational patterns are variations of problem-solution patterns, the logic of the organization is much the same: When the current means are not solving the problem, a new solution that does solve the problem should be adopted.
Principle 5: You are more likely to persuade an audience when your language motivates them. Motivation, “forces acting on or within :111 organism to initiate and direct behavior” (Perri, 1996, p. 3), is often a result of incentives and emotional language.
Incentives An incentive is simply “a goal objective that motivates” (Petri, 19%, p. IHS). Thus, if a speaker says that in addition to helping clean up the environment by collecting aluminum cans and glass and plastic bottles you can earn money by turning them in to a recycling center, you might see earning money for your efforts as an incentive to recycling. For an incentive to have value, it must be meaningful. Meaningfulness involves an emotional reaction. Eric Klinger (1977) believes people pursue those objects, events, and experiences that are emotionally important for them. Recycling would be a meaningful goal for someone looking for ways to participate in cleaning up the environment but not for someone who does not care about the environment or about earning small amounts of money. An incentive is most powerful when it is part of a meaningful goal.
1. Force of incentives. People are more likely to perceive incentives as meaningful if the incentives present a favorable cost-reward ratio. As we discussed in Chapter 8, social interactions can be explained in terms of rewards received and costs incurred by each member of an interaction. Recall that rewards are such incentives as economic gain, good feelings, prestige, or any other positive outcome; costs are units of expenditure such as time, energy, money, or any negative outcome of an interaction.
Let’s apply this idea to a speech setting. Suppose you are asking your audience to volunteer an hour a week to help adults learn to read. The time you are asking them to give is likely to be perceived as a cost rather than as an incentive; however, you may be able to describe volunteering in a way that it is perceived as a reward, a meaningful incentive. That is, you may be able to get members of the audience to feel civic-minded, responsible, or helpful as a result of volunteering time for such a worthy cause. In the speech, if you can show that those rewards or incentives outweigh the cost, you can increase the likelihood of volunteering.
2. Using incentives to meet basic needs. Many theorists who take a humanistic approach to psychology have argued that incentives are most powerful when they meet basic needs. One of the most popular needs theories is that of Abraham Maslow (1954). His theory suggests that people are more likely to act when a speaker’s incentive satisfies a strong unmet need in members of the audience.
Maslow devised a hierarchy of needs that is particularly useful in providing a framework for needs analysis. Maslow divided basic human needs into seven categories arranged in a hierarchy that begins with the most fundamental needs. The seven categories are illustrated in physiological needs, including food, drink, and life-sustaining temperature; safety and security needs, including long-term survival and stability; belongingness and love needs, including the need to identify with friends, loved ones, and family; esteem needs, including the quest for material goods, recognition, and power or influence; cognitive needs, including the need for knowledge and understanding; aesthetic needs, including the need for order and beauty and self-actualization needs, including the need to develop one’s self to realize one’s full potential. By placing these needs in a hierarchy, Maslow suggested that one set of needs must be met or satisfied before the next set of needs emerges. In theory, then, a person will not be motivated to meet an esteem need of gaining recognition until basic physiological, safety, and belongingness and love needs have been met.
What is the value of this analysis to you as a speaker? First, it suggests the kinds of needs you may appeal to in your speeches. Second, it enables you to understand why a line of development will work on one audience and fail with another. For instance, in hard economic times, people are more concerned with physiological and safety needs and so will be less responsive to appeals to affiliation and altruism. Thus, during economic hard times, fund-raisers for the arts will experience far more resistance to giving than they otherwise would. Third, and perhaps most crucial, when your proposition conflicts with a felt need, you will have to be prepared with a strong alternative in some category or in a more fundamental category. For instance, if your proposal is going to cost people money (say, higher taxes), you will have to show how the proposal satisfies some other comparable need (perhaps by increasing their security).
Arousing emotions through language Even with good incentives directed to basic needs, to motivate an audience to act, you must appeal to their emotions. Emotions (anger, fear, surprise, joy) are subjective conscious experiences triggered by actions or words that are accompanied by bodily arousal and by overt expressions (Weiten, 1998, p. 406). Effective persuasive speech development entails both logical and emotional elements that act interdependently. Therefore, we need to look for good reasons and for support that will, if properly phrased,
arouse these emotions.
As you work on your speeches, determine the emotion(s) you want to arouse, the kinds of information necessary to arouse those emotion(s), and how this information can he phrased for maximum effect. Let’s consider each of these.
1. What emotion(s) do you want your audience to experience as you make your point? The emotion(s) you W;]l1[ to arouse will differ from speech to speech. For instance, in a speech calling for more humane treatment of the elderly, you may decide that you want your listeners to feel sadness, anger, grief, caring, or perhaps, guilt. In contrast, in a speech designed to get the audience to attend your school’s production of a musical, you may want your listeners to feel joy, excitement, or enthusiasm.
2. What information do you have that could be used to stimulate those emotions? For the speech on the elderly, if you have determined that you want your listeners to feel sadness about their treatment in nursing homes, you might have data from interviews with elderly individuals
that show that their only talk of the future is the inevitability of death or perhaps you have accounts of social workers saying that many older
people live totally in the past and are reluctant to talk about or even think about the future; or perhaps you have information showing that many nursing homes do very little to give their clients anything to look forward to.
3. How can you phrase your information to elicit those emotions? How well you motivate is likely to depend on how well you phrase your information, but remember to keep ethical considerations in mind when you try to tap into powerful emotions.
For the speech on the elderly, you might be considering an introduction like this one:
Currently, elderly people are alienated from society. A high percentage live in nursing homes, live on small fixed incomes, and exist out of the mainstream of society. But with just the addition of a question and language that creates more wide pictures, you could make this statement much more emotionally powerful: Currently, elderly people are alienated from the society that they worked their entire lives to support. What happens to elderly people in America? They become the forgotten segment of society. They are often relegated to “old people’s homes” so that they can live out their lives and die without being “a bother” to their sons and daughters. Because they must exist on relatively small fixed incomes, they are confined to a life that for many means separation from the very society they helped to create.
You are likely to find that some of your best opportunities for using meaningful emotional appeal occur in the introduction and conclusion of your speech. Notice how emotional appeals heighten the power of the following introduction and conclusion in a student speech on euthanasia. I she began her speech as follows:
Let’s pretend for a moment. Suppose that on the upper right-hand corner of your desk there is a button. You have the power by pushing that button to quickly and painlessly end the life of one you love: your brother or father. This loved one has terminal cancer and will be confined to a hospital for his remaining days. Would you push the button now? His condition worsens. He is in constant pain, and he is hooked up to a life-support machine. He first requests, but as the pain increases he pleads for you to help. Now would you push that button? Each day you watch him deteriorate until he reaches a point where he cannot talk, he cannot see, he cannot hear-he is only alive by that machine. Now would you push that button?
After giving reasons for changing our laws on euthanasia, she concluded her speech as follows:
I ask again. how long could you take walking into that hospital room and looking at your brother or father in a coma, knowing he would rather be allowed to die a natural death than to be kept alive in such a degrading manner? I’ve crossed that doorstep-l’ve gone into that hospital room, and let me tell you, it’s hell. I think it’s time we reconsider our laws concerning euthanasia. Don’t you?
Regardless of your beliefs about the subject of euthanasia, you probably will have to agree that you would be inclined to experience sadness as you empathize with her feelings.
Principle 6: You are more likely to persuade an audience when they view you as a credible source.
As we have seen, maintaining credibility is important to speaker effectiveness in all types of speaking. In previous chapters, we have outlined the nature of credibility and the characteristics that you need to develop to be perceived as credible. In addition to being well prepared, emphasizing your interest in the audience, and looking and sounding enthusiastic, in persuasive speaking you must behave ethically. The following four guidelines are fundamental to ethical persuasive speaking.
1. Tell the truth. Of all the guidelines, this may be the most important. An audience that consents to listen to you is extending you its trust and expects that you will be honest with them. Consequently, if people believe you are lying to them or if they later learn that you have lied, they will reject you and your ideas. But telling the truth means more than avoiding deliberate, outright lies. If you are not sure whether information is true, do not use it until you have verified it. Ignorance is seldom accepted as an excuse.
2. Keep your information in perspective. Many people get so excited about their information that they exaggerate its importance. Although a little exaggeration might be accepted as a normal product of human nature, when the exaggeration is perceived as distortion, most people will consider it the same as lying. For instance, suppose you discover that capital punishment has lowered the murder rates in a few states but that in many other states the statistics are inconclusive. In your speech, if you assert that statistics show that murder rates are lower in states with capital punishment, you would be distorting the evidence. Because the line between some exaggeration and gross exaggeration or distortion is often difficult to distinguish, most people see any exaggeration as unethical.
3. Resist personal attacks against those who oppose your ideas. There seems to be almost universal agreement that name-calling and other irrelevant personal attacks are detrimental to a speaker’s trustworthiness. Responsible listeners recognize that such tactics do not contribute to the speaker’s argument and represent an abuse of the privileged status the speaker enjoys. 4. Give the source for all damning information. Where ideas originate is often as important as the ideas themselves, especially when a statement is damning. If you are going to discuss wrongdoing by individuals or organizations or condemn an idea by relying on the words or ideas of others, provide the sources of your information and arguments. Moreover, because the mention of wrongdoing brings communication to the edge of what is legally defined as slander, speakers should be aware of the legal as well as the ethical pitfalls of making damning statements without proof.
Gender and Cultural Differences
S0 far in this chapter we have discussed reasoning, appealing to emotions, and building credibility-three forms of proof that Aristotle, who wrote the first comprehensive treatment of persuasive speaking, called logos, pathos, and ethos. A legitimate question is whether women and people of other cultures use and appreciate the forms that are based on male speaking in a predominantly Eurocentric culture. The answer is that in all cultures male and female public speakers use these same means of persuasion-the differences are in how women and people from other cultures emphasize each of these means. Whereas U.S. male culture relies on good reasons supported with factual information and expert opinion, other cultural groups may put more emphasis on the credibility of the speaker or on emotional arousal and expressiveness (Fisher, 1988; Friday, 2000; Lieberman, 1995). The Diverse Voices feature provides some examples of differences between American and Arab cultures when speaking persuasively.
S0, how should you proceed? Again, the advice of Aristotle in his Rhetoric is useful to any speaker. When he discussed adapting to audiences, he pointed out that if an audience was truly homogeneous a speaker would want to use forms of proof, references, and examples that would relate to their particular experience. But when an audience is largely heterogeneous, a speaker would find it most useful to speak to what he called “the golden mean”-that is, a composite that covered the majority of that audience.
A Comparison of Arab and American Conceptions of “Effective” Persuasion by Janice Walker Anderson
People from different cultures are likely to have different views about how to speak and write persuasively. In this excerpt, Janice Walker Anderson describes some differences in the ways Arabs consider persuasiveness.
Although mass media reports on events in the Middle East translate the words used by Arab leaders, the reports seldom explain the different
cultural standards in Arab societies for evaluating reasonableness. “We can say that what is ‘reasonable,'” intercultural communication scholars Condon and Yousef (1975) explain, “is not , fully separable from cultural assumptions.” This analysis indicates some of the differences between Arab and American cultural orientations toward what constitutes “effective” persuasion. Before beginning the analysis, it is first necessary to acquaint American readers with some of the basics of Arab and Muslim orientations toward argumentation. “While only a small percentage (about 10%) of present-day Arabs are Bedouins,” Gudykunst and Kim explain in Communicating with Strangers, “contemporary Arab culture holds the Bedouin ethos as an ideal to which, in theory at least, it would like to measure up. While values such as materialism, success, activity, progress, and rationality are featured in American culture, Arab societies revolve around the core values of “hospitality, generosity, courage, honor, and self-respect.” As H. Samuel Hamod indicated in “Arab and Moslem Rhetorical Theory and Practice,” storytellers performed a vital function for the Bedouin tribes because few people could read or write: “Their tribal storytellers functioned as historians and moralists in recounting battles and instances of outstanding bravery and cunning.” These storytellers, or what we today might call poets, performed important political functions by establishing a means for interpreting and directing action. As A. J. Almaney and A. J. Alwan explained, a poet’s poems “might arouse a tribe to action in the same manner as [a politician) in a modern political campaign He was both a molder and agent of public opinion.” Some attributed magical powers to these storytellers because they controlled the power of language which could act upon the human emotions and rouse the people to action. To this day, poets are held in the highest esteem in Arab societies.
In addition, Arab cultures connect inspired language and religion. Arabic plays an important religious role in Islamic societies. All Muslims,
regardless of their nationality, must use Arabic in their daily prayers. The language of the Quran is considered a miracle in itself because it was produced by the Prophet Mohammed, who was illiterate. Consequently, Muslims believe that the Quran cannot be faithfully translated into other languages. The power of words lay not in their ability to reflect human experience, but in their ability to transcend it, to reach toward that which lay beyond human experience-the divine. To this day, the Quran stands as the ultimate book of style and grammar for Arabs. The cultural equivalent in the West would be using the King James Version of the Bible as our style manual. The Arab’s appreciation for the persuasive power of the rhythm and sound of words leads to a style that relies heavily on devices that heighten the emotional impact of a message. Certain words are used in speaking that have no denotative meaning. “These are ‘firm’ words because the audience knows the purpose behind their use, and the words are taken as a seal of definiteness and sincerity on the part of the speaker.” Other forms of assertion,
such as repetition and antithesis, are also quite frequent. Emphatic assertions are expected, Almaney and Alwan explain: “If an Arab says exactly what he means without the expected assertion, other Arabs may still think he means the opposite.” . Hamad explains the reasoning behind the Arab’s emphasis on stylistic concerns. “He who speaks well is well educated; he who is well educated is more qualified to render judgments and it is his advice we should follow. Eloquence and effectiveness were equated.” An Arab writer establishes credibility by displaying ability and artistry with the language.
Yet, given the vastly different assumptions about the role of persuasion in society, it is’not surprising that misunderstandings occur between
Americans and Arabs, even when the same guage” is used. Communicating across a cultural gap requires more than just a knowledge of
respective vocabularies. It also requires an understanding of the different cultural rules for what constitutes “reasonable”
Excerpted from The Howard Journal at Communications, Vol. 2, No.1 (Winter 1989-90), pp. 81-114. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. Janice Walker Anderson is in the. Communication Department, College at New Paltz, State University of New York.
Principle 7: You are more likely to persuade an audience if you develop an effective oral presentation style.
Previous chapters have addressed characteristics of presentation that you must develop to increase your effectiveness, including the importance of practicing your speech until your presentation (language and delivery) enhances it. Although this section is short, you must not forget that it is through your presentation that your listeners “see” your speech.