Empathy And Public Speaking

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The ability to transfer your emotions and feelings to your audience is key to being more persuasive in your public speaking.

When a speaker is intensely interested in his subject and has a burning desire to share his ideas and feelings with an audience, an emotional condition which psychologists call empathy usually occurs.
Empathy means a direct, complete communication of one’s thoughts and feelings into another person or persons. A contagious emotional effect from the speaker is necessary before this type of communication can occur. Of course a speaker must have a large supply of sincere feeling himself before he can hope to transmit it to other people. Giving someone the measles without having the disease yourself would be difficult. Similarly how could a speaker expect to share something with an audience which he doesn’t have himself? That would be just as reasonable as one child with empty hands saying to another, “Here, share my candy.”
Notice how empathy works at a local high school basketball game. Jasper, an old rival, is playing the home team, Hunting-burg. The teams are evenly matched. The score see-saws. All the players are intensely interested in winning. Even when a player
shoots a foul he may try to guide the ball into the goal after it has left his hands! ,
Fans in the stands watch the ball. They are almost riding with it. They lean forward and watch breathlessly as the ball, a victim of gravity, hangs momentarily on the hoop.
It falls in! Ardent home fans yell, applaud, throw up their hands gleefully, or even jump up and down for joy.
If the ball rolls out, the fans will still react, but in a different manner. Groans, moans, frowns, and various gestures of disgust become evident. But five seconds later they’re “heart over head” for the home team again. Empathy exists because the players and the fans are thoroughly living every moment o£ the game. The fans catch the spirit of the players, and the players in turn may be inspired by the fans. As in any type of effective emotional communication it is a two-way process.
Now picture another situation. A professional basketball team is playing the home boys. It soon becomes evident to the local fans that their team cannot even come close to winning.
The score is 43 to 18. The home team, in spirit, has given up because they are convinced they cannot win. The professional team, being so far ahead is simply coasting. Their ability is not even challenged. No one really has a deep interest in the game. So empathy, which was a vivid reality when the two high school teams played, is now completely missing.

My next post will provide some more explanation how you can use empathy to persuade your audience in public speaking.

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