Page images



Importance of Persuasion. — “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.” No statement illustrates better than this the necessity of adding persuasion to conviction in order to accomplish the purpose of debate. By conviction, we may lead a person to see the truth of a proposition, but only by persuasion may we lead him to embrace it as a firm belief on which to base his conduct. Persuasion, therefore, is an invaluable aid to conviction; and, as such, is one of the most important processes in the art of debate.

[ocr errors]

Definition of Persuasion. - Persuasion is a process by which one is made to believe a proposition by feeling and appreciating its truth.2

To be more specific: It is a process by which all the proof in a case is provided with interest and a motive for its accept



Relation of Persuasion to Conviction. — Persuasion prepares the way for conviction, and then enforces its conclusion. Persuasion, however, should not be regarded as a process that is kept separate from conviction ; for, in alı instances, it should accompany conviction step by step throughout a speech.

1 For lesson assignments on Persuasion, see Appendix A. 2 See pages 4-5.

Places of Marked Persuasion in a Speech. - The places in a speech where the process of persuasion is always most marked are at the beginning and at the end. At the beginning, persuasion always serves to provide interest in the subject; and, at the end, it always serves, through touching various motives, to produce action; that is, to produce the acceptance of the proof and any other action that naturally follows from this acceptance.

[ocr errors]

Methods of Persuasion. — Persuasion is a process by which one is made to feel the truth of a proposition. To produce this feeling of truth, it relies on various methods, which are: 1. To inspire confidence in, and respect for, the person

ality of the speaker ; 2. To bring the subject of controversy vividly within the

experience of the hearers; and 3. To associate the proposition with motives among the

hearers that will lead to its acceptance.

Methods of Inspiring Confidence and Respect. — The methods by which a speaker may inspire confidence and respect for his personality among his hearers are many and varied. It would be impossible to enumerate them all; but they may be divided roughly into those that make an indirect appeal, and those that appeal more directly.

The methods of making an indirect persuasive appeal through one's personality are by means of displaying the following qualities :

1. Uprightness; 2. Earnestness; 3. Modesty; 4. Tact;

5. Dignity;
6. Humor;
7. Intellectuality;
8. Calmness; and

9. Aggressiveness. The methods of making a direct persuasive appeal through one's personality are by:

1. Vindication of One's Self;
2. Attack on Character of One's Opponents;
3. Acknowledgment of Favors; and
4. Tactful Praise of the Audience.



Persuasion through Uprightness. — The value of uprightness as a trait of personal character inspiring confidence and respect hardly needs to be stated; but the proper methods of impressing this quality upon an audience may need explanation.

It goes without saying, of course, that the speaker must have a good reputation and that he must not be detected in any falsehood or double-dealing; but in addition to being actually upright, he must also act the part; that is, he must appear to be so.

The appearance of uprightness, he never can have as a speaker if he slouches before an audience or refuses to look them steadily in the eye. To gain the appearance of uprightness, therefore, in order to inspire confidence and respect, the speaker should stand erect before his audience, firmly planted on both feet, with shoulders squared, and an eye that never leaves the eyes of his hearers.

Persuasion through Earnestness. — The second quality in personality that inspires confidence and respect is the quality of earnestness. This quality is one that the actor may feign; but one that the debater should never feign. He should actually feel it.

For a debater to possess this quality, he cannot be indifferent to the outcome of a debate; he must set his whole heart on establishing his side of the case; and for the time being, at least, no question in the world can be of more importance to him than the question under discussion.

Different people, of course, express their earnestness in various ways, some by becoming nervous, others by shouting and bellowing, and still others by stamping, pounding, and gesticulating. Unless the speaker feels impelled to do some of these things, he is not tremendously in earnest. These impulses are all signs of real earnestness; but the debater should always hold them in check; for unrestrained earnestness will becloud his reasoning powers, which, after all, are of the greatest importance. The debater, therefore, should not stamp, and pound, and bellow to express his earnestness; but should rather cultivate a few forceful gestures that he may use without premeditation, and a quiet, earnest tone that betokens a wonderful reserve power which he seldom uses and seldom needs to use.

Persuasion through Modesty. — The third quality in personality that inspires confidence and respect is the quality of modesty. This quality demands the absolute elimination of all egotism, vanity, strut, and condescension in the appearance of the speaker; for, whenever these qualities appear in the place of modesty, they create almost immediately a feeling toward the speaker of hostility, contempt, or ridicule.

A truly modest person never needs to be concerned about this quality; but the man who suspects that he is egotistical, vain, strutting, and condescending, should regard these qualities as an almost fatal handicap to his success; and he should seek in every way to cultivate the quality of real modesty.

The cultivation of modesty, however, always begets the danger of producing false modesty; and, in most instances, false modesty is even more unbearable than egotism. The quality of modesty, therefore, ought to be inborn, or ought to be cultivated so that it becomes part of one's second nature; and almost never should it be feigned, for only the most consummate actor can play the part of assumed modesty without detection.

Persuasion through Tact. — The fourth quality in personality that inspires confidence and respect is tact. This quality is one that leads the speaker never to be flippant with his audience, never to outrage their feelings of propriety, never to ridicule what they consider sacred, never to fly needlessly in the face of their prejudices, never to taunt them for their ignorance, and in general never to overstep the bounds of gentlemanly conduct.

Persuasion through Dignity. — The fifth quality in personality that inspires confidence and respect is dignity. This quality in a speaker is one that has nothing to do with stiff-necked prudishness, funereal somberness, affected mannerism, or icy formality; but is a quality rather that consists merely in self-respect and respect for the occasion that calls forth the speech.

This quality is usually made manifest in the speaker by his refusal to indulge in the antics of a clown or the ravings of a madman, and by his careful avoidance of all coarseness and vulgarity.


« PreviousContinue »