The art of persuasive speaking: A speaker should be aware of the degrees of receptiveness among listeners in an audience — from hostile to highly favorable.
By Mike McCurley, Family Lawyer
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IV. Models of Persuasion
For a listener to make sense of the complex information received from the speaker, the speaker must become a teacher. The essence of the complex subject matter of persuasive speaking is that if you want the listener to adopt a certain belief, the speak must teach the listener the response that the speaker seeks. Educators are aware of the five main methods of learning: auditory, visual, tactile, experiential and kinesthetic.46 Auditory learners understand and remember spoken information. Visual learners understand and remember information that they have seen. Tactile learners understand and remember information that they can handle and touch. Experiential learners understand and remember best when they participate. Kinesthetic learners understand and remember best when data is linked to movement.47Most people are visual learners.48 Tactile learning is considered a byproduct of visual communication.49 Knowing the different approaches to learning allows the speaker to blend the individual components of communication and learning in his or her presentation.50 By combining the five learning models, one’s presentation to the listener becomes performance communication.51 As the speaker becomes the teacher to the listener, the presentation becomes a classroom experience.52 The educated listener is able to move away from peripheral processing and toward central route processing. By teaching the issues to the listener, the speaker’s persuasive abilities increase and the speaker is able to explain the merits of the speaker’s position and explains the weaknesses of the opposing view.53
Another aspect to one’s persuasiveness is the setting in which the message is presented. Extrinsic factors may positively or negatively impact the persuasiveness of one’s presentation. Distractions such as hunger and thirst can detracts from the listener’s attentiveness to the speaker. Conversely, heightened anticipation and excitement can predispose a listener to align with a speaker’s message. The core message of a presentation can also be impacted by the venue. One listening to a religious sermon at a religious service may be more receptive to the message than that same message on a city bus.
A speaker should be aware that there are degrees of receptiveness among listeners in an audience ranging from hostile to highly favorable. By and large, the listening audience which lacks an opinion could be uninformed, neutral, or apathetic. Knowledge of one’s listening audience enables the speakers to adjust the presentation according to the type of audience. One method of presentation is the Problem-Solution model. The speaker explains the problem to the listener then offers the listener a solution. The Direct model makes a claim the present reasons to support the claims, beginning with the weakest reason and ending with the strongest reason supporting the claim. The Comparative Advantage model of persuasive speaking explains why the speaker’s position is superior to the competing positions proposals by comparing the advantages of the speaker’s position to other positions. The Negative Method focuses on the weaknesses of competing positions before focusing on the speaker’s positions as the remaining logical position. The model most likely to be used in persuading a judge or jury is the Monroe’s Motivated Sequence model developed by Professor Alan Monroe at Purdue University. Monroe maintained that in order to move a listener to act, the speaker must motivate the listened to do what “they know they should do.” The Monroe model incorporates emotional and logical reasoning.
The Monroe model begins with gaining the attention of the listener and drawing the listened into the topic. To establish a need to the listener, the speaker is to tell the listener the nature of the problem, provide a detailed example of the problem, provide statistics to show the extent of the problem, and to illustrate the relationship between the listener and the problem. According to Monroe, once the listener is invested in the problem, the speaker should state the action or belief that the speaker wants the listener to adopt followed by an explanation n making the action or belief understandable to the listener. The speaker should also make a logical connection between the problem and the solution. The connection should be supported by facts or statistics to show that the action or belief is the correct resolution. Finally, the Monroe model provides for the speaker to identify and explain why potential objections to the action or belief formulated by the listener are minimal issues ( harm-benefit analysis) or inapplicable to the problem. Monroe proposes that the speaker invites the listener to visualize the positive result associated with the adoption of the speaker’s action or belief as well as the negative results if the speaker’s position is not adopted by the listener. The Monroe model concludes with the speaker’s call for the listener to action and the description of the positive impact of the action.54
The better storyteller wields more influence as a persuasive speaker because the ability to tell a story is the ability to move the listener. A good storyteller can mesmerize a listener and exude a certain “star quality” for the speaker. A good story imparts information in a memorable way and holds the attention of the listener. A good story has five goals: 1. to illustrate a point; 2. to make the listener feel some way or another; 3. to make others experience certain sensations, feelings, or attitudes vicariously; 4. to transfer some piece of information in our head into the head of the listener; and, 5. to summarize significant events.
A story has identifiable components: a central character (protagonist), a setting, a conflict or an antagonist, a climax and a resolution. The central character, or the protagonist, is your client. The setting is the time, the place, and the facts surrounding your client. The antagonist is the thing between the protagonist and his/her goal. The climax is the point at which the tension is at its peak. The resolution is how the story ends. Avoid overburdening the listener with too much detail which is not permitted. Keep the story simple. The testimony and the evidence will fill in the details. The more concise and understandable the story, the more likely the listener will be able to follow you. The speaker should use storytelling to take the listener to the conclusion that speaker desires as quickly as possible. The most persuasive and compelling method of telling a story is to tell the story in first person.
The best stories are the stories that another can hear and visualize the action in their mind. A compelling story permits the listener to apply their sense memory to the story. Persuasive speaking uses descriptive and colorful words. The key is to balance one’s choice of words between vivid words that evoke emotions and exaggeration that causes one to lose credibility.
One can improve one’s persuasive speaking skills by thoroughly studying the psychology of persuasion and the innate application of those psychological phenomena by masters of persuasive speaking. The persuasive speaker must be confident, knowledgeable of the subject, and garner and retain credibility from the listener. A persuasive speaker identifies the action or belief that the speaker wants the listener to adopt. The persuasive speaker includes the listener in the story and assigns a role to the listener. A persuasive speaker encourages the listener to embrace his role in the story and acknowledges the task to act or adopt the speaker’s belief. The persuasive speaker assures the listener that the act or belief is the right choice.
The appendices below examine five speakers, whether for good or evil, were persuasive speakers.
A divorce lawyer for more than 25 years, Mike McCurley is a name partner in the Dallas family-law firm McCurley, Orsinger, McCurley, Nelson & Downing. During his year of service as president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, McCurley raised awareness among both parents and legal professionals about the negative effects divorce has on children.
1 Speak the truth.
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3 Mills, Harry, Artful Persuasion: How to Command Attention, Change Minds, and Influence People, AMA Publications, New York, New York, (2000) p. 19.
4 Mills, Harry, Artful Persuasion, p. 21.
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9 “A Conversation with Gerry Spence,” Charlie Rose, Bloomberg Television, air date: October 12, 1994.
10 Gerry Spence, Persuading Yourself You Can Win, 36 Litigation 14, 15 (Winter 2010).
11 Gerry Spence, Persuading Yourself You Can Win, 36 Litigation at 15.
12 Mills, Harry, Artful Persuasion: How to Command Attention, Change Minds, and Influence People, AMA Publications, New York, New York, (2000) p. 14.
13 Gerry Spence, Persuading Yourself You Can Win, 36 Litigation at 15.
14 Spence, Gerry, How To Argue and Win Every Time, St. Martin’s Press, New York, New York, (1995) p. 65.
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16 Gerry Spence, Persuading Yourself You Can Win, 36 Litigation at 15.
17 Mike McCurley, Opening Statement, Advanced Family Law Art and Advocacy, December 11-12, 1997 (Houston, Texas), p. F-4 stating that 65 to 80 percent of jurors make up their minds about a case during the opening statement and do not change their opinions throughout the remainder of the case.
18 Willis J., Todorov A., “First Impressions: Making Up Your Mind After 100 ms Exposure to a Face,” Psychol. Sci. Vol. 17:592–598 (July 2006).
11 Nations, H., “Overcoming Jury Bias,” The State Bar of Texas: Choosing and Courting a Jury, Chapter 3, April 2001 (Dallas) and May 2001 (Houston), p. 29.
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13 Spence, Gerry, Win Your Case, St. Martin’s Press, Griffin Ed., New York, New York 2006, pp. 24, 27.
14 Spence, Gerry, Win Your Case, p. 33.
15 Bandler, R. and Grinder, J., The Structure of Magic: A Book About Language and Therapy, Science and Behavior Books, Inc., Palo Alto 1975, p. 16.
16 Bandler, R. and Grinder, J., The Structure of Magic, pp. 155-169.
17 Wilson, C., “The Art of Persuasive Communication,” STATE BAR COLLEGE “SUMMER SCHOOL”, (Galveston 2008), p. 5.
18 Luchins, Abraham, The Order of Presentation, Yale University Press 1957.
19 Brodsky, S., Principles and Practice, p. 65.
20 Brodsky, S., Principles and Practice, p. 65.
21 Brodsky S., Principles and Practice, pp. 64-65.
22 Brodsky S., Principles and Practice, p. 65.
23 The Winning Argument, American Bar Association 2001, p. 156.
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25 Gamache , J.A., “6 Techniques to Present Data,” (Toastmasters, 2007).
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27 Cogdell, D., Goodling, G., “Opening and Closings that Work (or Are Over the Top),” 29th Annual Advanced Criminal Law Course (Dallas 2003), p.2.
28 Moses, R., “Planning, Preparing, and Writing a Jury Argument,” Center for Criminal Justice Advocacy, 2001, http://juryargument.homestead.com/Preparation.html.
29 Cogdell, D., “Opening and Closings that Work (or Are Over the Top),” p.3.
30 See Moses, R., “Planning, Preparing, and Writing a Jury Argument,” Center for Criminal Justice Advocacy, 2001, http://juryargument.homestead.com/Preparation.html
31 C. Fife-Schaw, “The Influence of Witness Appearance and Demeanour on Witness Credibility: a theoretical framework” (1995) 35 Med. Sci. Law, p. 107.
32 John S. Seiter and Deborah Dunn, Beauty and Believability In Sexual Harassment Cases: Does Physical Attractiveness Affect Perceptions of Veracity and the Likelihood of Being Harassed?, Communication Research Reports, Volume 17, Issue 2 Spring 2000, pp. 203 – 209.
33 Deborah L. Rhode, “”Why is Bias Based on Appearance Still Tolerable Practice?,” Dallas Morning News, Sunday, June 6, 2010, section P, p. 6.
35 Peter McClellan, “Who is Telling the Truth? Psychology, Common Sense and the Law,”LOCAL COURTS OF NEW SOUTH WALES, ANNUAL CONFERENCE, August 2-4, 2006.
38 C. Fife-Schaw, The Influence of Witness Appearance at 107.
39 Peter McClellan, “Who is Telling the Truth?”at p. 5.
40 Paul Ekman, Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics and Marriage, Norton, New York, 1985.
41 M. G. Frank, “Assessing Deception: Implications for the Courtroom” (1996) 2 TJR 315 at 321.
42 Roger Giles, “The Assessment of Reliability and Credibility” (1996) 2 TJR 281at 292.
43 Roger Giles, “The Assessment of Reliability and Credibility” (1996) 2 TJR 281at 292.
44 L. Re, “Oral v Written Evidence: The Myth of the ‘Impressive Witness’” (1983) 57 ALJ 679 at 682.
45 P. Conley, W. M. O’Barr and E. A. Lind, “The Power of Language: Presentational Style in the Courtroom” (1978) Duke Law Journal 1375.
46 Hibbitts, B. J., Coming to Our Senses: Communication and Legal Expression in Performance Cultures, 41 Emory Law Journal 4, p. 13 (1992).
47 Greene, L.J., Study Max: Improving Study Skills in Grades 9-12, Corwin Press, 2004, pp. 31-34.
48 Hibbitts, B. J., Coming to Our Senses, p. 28.
49 Hibbitts, B. J., Coming to Our Senses, p. 40.
50 Spence, G., Win Your Case, p. 98.; see also, Perdue, J. M., Story Telling: How to Articulate Theories and Themes From Voir Dire to Closing, Advanced CIVIL TRIAL Law COURSE, September 29 – October 1, 1999 (Houston), p.p. 12-13.
51 Hibbitts, B. J., Coming to Our Senses, p. 53.
52 Hibbitts, B. J., Coming to Our Senses, p. 59.
53 Green, J. L., “Developing and Using a Theme in Your Family Law Case,” ADVANCED FAMILY LAW DRAFTING AND ADVOCACY: ART AND FORM 2003, Chapter 12, p. 2, December 2003 (Austin).