Respect for Audience

If you show a lack of respect for those you are trying to persuade, the door to communication slams shut— they will not listen.

As you plan and deliver your message, try to make each member feel that their opinion is valued and considered seriously, especially if their opinion contradicts yours or if you think their perspective is ridiculous.

What can you do for your next speech?:

  • choose your words carefully—make your point but don’t insult or offend
  • be polite and civil
  • send a nonverbal message that tells the listener that you’re not lecturing or preaching
  • include the audience—consider interacting with them
  • be prepared and knowledgeable—don’t waste their time

Why do people sometimes show a complete lack of respect for those with whom they disagree?

As John Steinbeck enters North Dakota in his book, Travels with Charley, he meets a traveling actor who is making his living by performing scenes from Shakespeare’s plays for anyone along the road who will pay. Steinbeck asks the man how he is able to convince folk of such simple sensibilities that a scene of Shakespeare is worthy of their money and time. The man replies: “Oh, yes. Well, there’s one more thing. You know when show people come to what they call the sticks, they have a contempt for the yokels. It took me a little time, but when I learned that there aren’t any yokels I began to get on fine. I learned respect for my audience. They feel that and they work with me, and not against me. Once you respect them, they can understand anything you can tell them.” This is the best example of respect for audience that I know.

Recount one specific story where a lack of respect made the persuasion fail, or recount one specific story where great respect made the persuasion successful. Summarize that instance below:

Persuader: ____________________
Audience: ____________________
Persuasive goal: ____________________
Audience felt respected or disrespected?: ____________________
Specifically what made them feel respected or disrespected?: ____________________
What was the outcome?: ____________________