Kennedy may not have changed many minds that day, but he did accomplish something very important: he got his audience to listen to him.
In an earlier article, I proposed a number of ways to earn your audience’s attention. Those techniques work very well when the audience is neutral or favorable to your point of view, but when they are skeptical of your position to begin with, or downright hostile to it, the game changes. In this article, we raise the bar and consider principles for engaging your audience’s attention when they really don’t want to hear your message.
Various persuasive questioning processes, including the Socratic method in teaching, Motivational Interviewing in clinical psychology or Huthwaite’s SPIN process in sales, are all designed to get listeners to reach their own conclusion that they must follow the course of action you’re selling. The general principle underlying all these approaches is that rather than trying to motivate people to act for your reasons it is far better to draw out their own motivations. They do this by uncovering gaps between their current situation and an ideal state, and eliciting enough pain and tension that they feel compelled to act to close that gap, ideally with your plan, product, or idea.
Where have we all seen this before?
That scene may be a bit exaggerated, but the fact is that many speakers unconsciously disarm themselves by imprisoning their hands while they speak. They lose the effectiveness that gestures can contribute to the effectiveness of any presentation or conversation by supplying information, view authenticity, and energy.