Have you ever not been in the mood for somebody’s sunshiny ways? Their lack of sympathy pushes you away. Instead, they should match your mood, at least at first. A little sympathy can go a long way. In Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion, Jay Heinrichs writes about using sympathy to build rapport.
Share Your Listener’s Mood
Start with your audience’s mood. Use rhetorical sympathy to show concern. Heinrichs writes:
Sympathize – align yourself with your listener’s pathos. You don’t have to share the mood; when you face an angry man, it doesn’t help to mirror that anger. Instead, rhetorical sympathy shows its concern, proving, as George H. W. Bush put it, “I care.” So when you face that angry man, look stern and concerned; do not shout, “Whoa, decaf!” When a little girl looks sad, sympathy means looking sad, too; it does not mean chirping, “Cheer up!”
Change Your Emotions as You Make Your Point
After you start with your audience’s mood, you can lead them to a new emotion. Heinrichs writes:
This reaction to the audience’s feeling can serve as a baseline, letting them see your own emotions change as you make your point. Cicero hinted that the great orator transforms himself into an emotional role model, showing the audience how it should feel.
Key Take Aways
Here’s my key take aways:
- Start with your audience’s mood.
- Sympathy can help build rapport.
- Use rhetorical sympathy to show concern.
- You can lead your audience to a new emotion, if you first start with their mood.
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