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Audiences & Persuasion


          Successfully persuading someone to change their viewpoint can be difficult. As humans, we are often set in our ways—stubborn to change our selective natures. Being selective is often associated with our memories and views of the world. Everyone does not have the same needs, nor do we have the same degree of commitment to an issue.

          Sometimes your audience may not be open to change. The perception of change may be painful for them and seem like an attack on long-held values or beliefs. Change can be perceived as invalidating our experiences or past. Other times, change can just take too much energy—your audience may not want to expend their resources on the change you hope to accomplish. Change may require the audience to do further research or to work at the change and requires the audience to think. Your audience may not want to change because they lack the knowledge or value of what you are wanting to accomplish. And lastly, your audience may not be open to change because of the peer pressure. This is a very intense and psychological reason against change as people often don’t want to go against the crowd—or be seen as an outsider, different, or odd. A successful persuasive speaker can work to lessen these fears in their audience.

          The audience attitude toward your topic may impact the change you seek. Your audience could have a positive, negative, or indifferent/neutral response to your topic. If your audience is positive, you may need to reinforce or strengthen their existing thoughts or behaviors by working to provide current evidence. If your audience is negative, you will need to call them to action by showing them that change needs to happen and that they need to do something like sign a petition, vote, give money, etc. Lead them into action. If your audience is indifferent, you may need to convince your audience that the problem exists, and the status quo is harmful.

          For persuasive speeches, it is important to use all of Aristotle’s three proofs (ethos, pathos, and logos) to validate your positions and arguments. These will allow your audience to decide for themselves on a course of action or change of opinion.

Review Questions

1) Why is change difficult for audiences to accept?

2) Describe a time when you were forced to change based on someone's persuasion.

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