In my previous post I gave an example of a speech of Lincoln’s showing off his skills as master at persuasion in public speaking.
This approach is truly a masterpiece of persuasion. It appeals to the listeners’ better nature, makes them justly proud of their heritage and fairness. They are called “friends, fellow citizens, brave and gallant people” by the speaker. He identifies himself-as one of them —”just a humble, honest person trying to get along.” Being approached by such sincere, effective persuasion how could they refuse the speaker a fair listening?
Through disappointing and “bitter experiences” Lincoln learned that honest tact is far more persuasive than bluntness or high-pressure methods. Suppose he had used the following approach in the situation referred to above:
I understand that some of you ignorant people here tonight have threatened violent harm to me. Don’t you know who I am? Evidently you are so illiterate you don’t know the law will sup¬port me in my demand for free speech here tonight. And anyone who tries to stop me will be thrown into jail for disturbing the peace. I’m going to speak whether you like it or not, and you’re going to listen!
You can imagine the negative response such remarks would get. Always it is much better to persuade as Lincoln did rather than try to force ideas upon people. “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” (Samuel Butler) Listen again to the master persuader:
. . . We don’t like to be made fun or laughed at, belittled. We aspire to a decent sense of dignity and self-respect.
Therefore, never say to listeners, “Since you don’t know about this subject I want to discuss it,” or “How many of you stopped to realize that . . . ? or “Please quit being prejudiced,, and listen to reason.” Such tactless remarks hurt the listeners’ self-respect and pride. They hurt the speaker’s chance of success. The tactful speaker reverses this. He uses self-respect and pride. Says he: “You remember so-and-so,” or “I’m sure you would rather listen. to pleasant facts than to pleasant fancy.”
An able persuader is not a yes-man or a namby-pamby individual. He is a positive, active personality who supports firmly, yet tactfully, the ideas and ideals which he feels are right and honest.
“Telling people off” may afford some speakers a bit of mor¬bid satisfaction, and occasionally this method may bulldoze listeners into submission, but it is not persuasive. Genuine persuasion is a process whereby listeners are led, willingly, often eagerly, to comply with a speaker’s suggestions.
Hows your approach to persuading people when you speak to them one on one or in a group, in a meeting or public speaking?
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