Thursday, January 16, 2014

Using Values in Persuasion

Using Values in Persuasion
As persuaders, we need to think about what is important to our target audience. An individual’s values are what s/he believes to be important in life.

If properly understood, values can be used in at least two ways: 1) in developing commonality with the audience by showing you share certain values, thus making you more trustworthy, and 2) by using things the audience values as motivation for taking the desired action you seek of them in your speech.

Some values are ends in themselves, while some are means to attain those ends. To help understand this, it is useful to be familiar with the work of Milton Rokeach. His research focused on human values and in his 1973 book The Nature of Human Values, he identified two kinds of values, “Instrumental” and “Terminal”. Terminal values are goals people believe it is important to attain in their lifetime, while instrumental values are specific behaviors or characteristics that help us attain our terminal values.

The following are the values Rokeach identified as being valuable to people.

Terminal Values
Instrumental Values
  1. true friendship
  2. mature love
  3. self-respect  
  4. happiness
  5. inner harmony
  6. equality
  7.  freedom
  8. pleasure
  9. social recognition
  10. wisdom
  11. salvation
  12. family security
  13.  national security
  14. a sense of accomplishment
  15. a world of beauty
  16. a world at peace
  17.  a comfortable life
  18. an exciting life
     1.         cheerfulness
     2.        ambition
     3.       love
     4.       cleanliness
     5.       self-control
     6.       capability
     7.       courage
     8.       politeness
     9.       honesty
     10.   imagination
     11.   independence
     12.   intellect
     13.   broad-mindedness
     14.   logic
     15.   obedience
     16.   helpfulness
     17.   responsibility
     18.   forgiveness

Please note that order of importance varies from individual to individual. Thus you must think about your target audience and what you think they would deem more or less important and construct your message accordingly. Your goal is to explicitly state how the action you ask of them in your speech will help provide them with the things they value.

I hope you find this useful. 

That's all for today my friends. Be well, speak well, and as always, thanks for reading.

For more information about Dan Leyes Consulting work, see Semiosphere Consulting.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Six Tips for Being an Authentic Speaker

There is an inherent problem that communication consultants and public speaking trainers face. In our desire to make speakers more effective, we run the risk of making the speaker something s/he is not. In the process of trying to become better speakers, they often lose themselves. This is detrimental to the speaker's success.

In fact, there is a very real possibility of coaching making you a less effective speaker. Here are six tips that can prevent that from happening. It's all about authenticity.

1. Remember the goal is to be yourself, at your best. If someone is trying to turn you into some ideal that they have in their head, you are probably being led down the wrong path. Micromanagement of every single gesture and every utterance is generally a bad idea. A good consultant takes the time to understand you, your unique personality and communication style. Then they try to bring out your best qualities and minimize any poor habits you may have gotten into. Sometimes this means "un-teaching" bad methods we have picked up along the way.

2. You must believe in your message with all your heart. Sincerity is visible and resonates with audiences. Likewise, if you are not being true to yourself, it shows. We, as an audience, can tell if you do not have the courage of your convictions. But when you do, it can become mesmerizing!

3. Share a bit of yourself in your message, Personal stories, honest reflection, and just plain honesty in general are recognized and appreciated. Share a little of who you are as a person in every presentation. Audiences find it a refreshing change from facts and data (which are too often overdone, sapping the life out of speeches).

4. Become comfortable with being the audience's focal point. You are the star of the show. Don't hide behind a lectern or podium if possible. Get comfortable with your own style of movement. Practice it, play with it, have fun with it (if possible/appropropriate). You are a performer and you would be surprised with your ability to "perform" while still being yourself. It's just your performative side. Some are more comfortable with it than others, but we all have that ability for playfulness that is the source of our performative ability.

5, Develop your talk without presentational aids (i.e., PowerPoint). You can and probably will add them in later, but too many START with PowerPoint and that's just bass-ackwards. YOU are the most important part of your message. So make sure your presentation can stand alone without presentational aids.

6. Know your audience. I have seen so many speakers who simply did not do their homework about the audience and context for their presentation. The audience quickly recognizes your presentation has not been developed for them and you are just talking at them. They resent it, you and may dismiss what you are saying because of it. Always remember, you give a speech FOR AN AUDIENCE. You are not speaking for a paycheck, a boss, or your professional survival. You are there for them, the audience.

In summary, be true to yourself in all you say and do. An engaged audience will forgive small technical imperfections, but they will not forgive inauthentic communication!

That's all for today. Be well, speak well, and as always, thanks for reading.

Daniel Leyes is the President of Semiosphere Consulting and Professor of Speech Communication at Brookdale Community College.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Communication is Creative and Self-Reflective

Today I would like to talk a little about the nature of communicating in the semiosphere.

The Semiosphere is the context for the creative and self-reflective process of communicating in one's lived-world.

The semiosphere, like reality, is ever-changing. In fact, I wrote a blog entry developing this idea at length entitled "Communication as Possibility". If you haven't already read it it might help understanding this.

In this ever-changing reality, what we communicate creates what will be in the next moment. Remembering that communication involves both perception and expression, we see that the meaning we are attributing to our surroundings creates our conception of "reality". Simultaneously we are expressing ourselves verbally and nonverbally. This is what is happening when a person stands alone in the room. Now when another person enters the room we have a crashing of two lived-worlds. Together they form a semiosphere, a world reliant on navigating codes and sign systems. Depending on their mutual knowledge of certain codes the two people may communicate famously, or they may not "get" each other.

This is a fact I share with my students on the first day of the semester when I tell them to be careful when former students tell them about "Leyes' Speech class": Because the person talking is speaking about THEIR Speech class and theirs is over. OUR Speech class is yet to be. What will THIS speech class be? I don't know, because it hasn't happened yet. WE will create it. Sometimes it's magical and sometimes it's awful. I do pretty much the same spiel for every section, yet some of them respond wonderfully and others less so. The difference of course, is what the students bring to the show. TOGETHER we create the course. Their unique questions, speech topics, rhetorical choices all add to the discursive reality that becomes "the course" in our memory. The course is a process of co-creation between 26 people over 15 weeks. I am only one of the 26.
When I say the semiosphere is self-reflective, I mean that what I say says more about me than than the thing I am talking about. Every utterance is an expression of my perception. If, for example, I say "She is beautiful" I am in fact talking about MY judgement and my definition of beauty. My statement is a reflection of how I perceive the situation. If I say "this soup is too spicy" what I am REALLY saying is that I prefer less spice in my soup. This emphasizes the importance of "owning" one's message and stating it accurately. So when student A says to student B (from another class) "Leyes' class is a blast, he's so funny", she is talking about her perception of the experience in HER class. Student B may find this to be off base, as nobody laughs at his jokes in his class, in fact it's kind of dull.

But what does all this mean for public speaking? Well, every speaking situation takes place in the semiosphere. We need to understand that the audience is made up of individuals, some more central to our purpose than others. To convince them of something we must understand the lived-worlds of our key audience members and adapt our message to them. Their lived-worlds have their own codes and sign systems that drive behavior. By putting our focus on these codes and sign systems we are better able to construct messages that "speak to" them directly. And in so doing we are more likely to get the responses we seek from them.

I hope this makes sense for you. I am happy to entertain questions in the Comments section below.

That's all for today. Speak well, be well, and as always thanks for reading!

If you would like to learn more about Dan Leyes and his consulting work, see Semiosphere Consulting.