Informed by dispassion when arguing with passion

Jul 09, 2014 Informed by dispassion when arguing with passion

A key part of persuasion is getting the audience to listen to the speaker in the first place. If the audience feels uncomfortable, threatened or even frightened by the speaker, the audience will be distracted in trying to tune out from the speaker, defend themselves from the speaker and even escape the speaker.

Passion is an important ingredient of persuasion, for bypassing overintellectualization, for transcending boring-speak, for being in the moment, for sounding honest, and for getting to the truly peruasive heart of the matter. However, too much exhibited passion can turn off the audience and make the audience tune out.

Passion, therefore, needs to be informed by and sometimes counterbalanced by dispassion. This of course depends partly on who one’s audience is, but of course an audience of many rather than one can include many personalities; and many ways of receiving, filtering and processing ideas, arguments and information.

As a brief example, recently I was before a judge at a lengthy criminal suppression hearing. At a few points early on in the hearing before this judge before whom I had never appeared, I made some impassioned objections, and the judge sometimes just as firmly cut me off and insisted that he was going to let most of the testimony be made, and would decide which evidence to consider and which not to consider. Some judges cut a lawyer off just to make clear who is in control of the courtroom. I decided to switch gears by cloaking my passion with some more elements of dispassion, in my tone of voice, in my body language, and in my speaking pace, including at least two times when I asked the judge to reconsider an evidentiary ruling, where instead of insisting that he already had ruled, the judge did reconsider, and ruled in my favor.

Dispassion, then, can be a kind of trojan horse, to get one’s passionate arguments to the audience without the audience realizing that it is receiving a passionate argument, or too passionate an argument.

Of course, one of the best ways to persuade an audience is to make the audience see the persuader as one of them. That will not happen if the speaker is using brute force to try to convince the audience, versus genuinely trying to help the audience reach what the audience feels is the right result, so that audience members do not awake the next morning proclaming "Aw sh*t!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I made the wrong decision there, didn’t I?"

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