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In rapt attention the members of an audience have been known to rise to their feet, sometimes to applaud, at other times to stand with fixed
mouth. Do not these manifestations suggest hypnotic states ? Certainly these results are not due to any occult power of mind or any mysterious “fluid.” They are perfectly normal, and are explicable as phenomena of spontaneous atten
And as recent psychology gives up the theory of a “mesmeric fluid" and "animal magnetism," and accepts the phenomena of attention and suggestion - purely psychic processes-as an explanation of the hypnotic state, so, also, in analyzing the power of magnetic speaking, crude notions of a peculiar fluid must be abandoned.
The matter of the speech and the manner of the delivery adapted to secure the spontaneous attention of the listener,
- that is, to lead the attentive mind on step by step in the thought, feelings, volitions, and aims of the speaker, - is the only mystery involved. To secure, in some measure, this involuntary attention of the listener, even though genius is lacking, is the legitimate aim of every modest student of speaking
1. Communicative Attitude. - To secure attention and get a response, the speaker must, first of all, be in the communicative attitude of mind. This is the attitude of direct address. As language is social in its function, it is impossible to a solitary mind. We may, indeed, have sounds and symbols without having language, for language always presupposes a real or imaginary mind addressed. In Public Speaking, the mind of the audience is directly communicated with by means of the voice and action.
(1) The communicative attitude of mind speaks to, and not before, an audience.
(2) It is essentially the vocative attitude. The speaker at his best spontaneously says, “My friends," "My neighbors," "My countrymen," "Fellow-citizens,” “My brethren."
These are, in their best use, by no means mere consentions of speech. When the words are not used, the speaker should, from time to time, mentally supply the vocative.
(3) The communicative attitude manifests itself in facing the audience.
The speaker should not merely “appear before the audience,” but should look at it. The eye is not only expressive, but controlling. It first challenges attention, and leads in all expression by gesture. Gesture while looking intently at the manuscript, or above and beyond the audience, is provokingly ineffective. In every description that necessarily takes the eye away from the audience, the eye starts from the audience and returns to it. Playing back and forth, the eye, together with the movement, says, “Do you see it?” The speaker should localize individuals or groups, and study the effect of the effort upon them. To give proper pitch and direction to the voice, select a person in the farther part of the room, and speak to him as colloquially as possible. In speaking to individuals of the audience, however, do not “catch their eye,” that is, to recognize them. Speaking then becomes personal, and is liable to give offence.
(4) Communication objectifies the thought. The subjective or soliloquizing attitude of mind is to be avoided. “Objectify,” must be frequently urged upon the student. “Talk it out;" but not noisily or fussily.
2. Deferential Attitude. — The deferential attitude of mind and manner quickens the sympathies of both speaker and audience. The arrogant, boastful attitude repels, while the simple and frank manner wins sympathy and attention. But deference to the audience has its sources in good-will.
In these ways, if the matter is adapted to the purpose, the listener is interested, foreign thoughts excluded, and, by the laws of association, the mind is led on step by step in the thoughts and emotions, and to the purposes of the speaker.
We have already, in several places in this treatise, come upon the idea that effective speech is in its roots moral. We face the same conception again. No one who, from the pulpit, at the bar, on the rostrum or platform, speaks upon serious matters, has any right to demand a hearing unless he intends the good of those addressed. The good of man is the most comprehensive aim of the speaker, as it is of all human effort. If one speak merely for entertainment, he must, in order to get into the best frame of mind for the purpose, even in this, will the temporary good of those addressed. If effective speech is essentially moral, it must be because of its aims. The aim of true speech is not victory, but the welfare of the individual and the
Good-will toward those with whom we communicate has an inherent force that defies analysis. Some aspects of it, however, may be brought under our attention.
1. The speaker inspired by good-will recognizes the rights and worth of man, and assumes the attitude of deference when speaking to men. This opens the door to their emotions through their sympathies. This right to civil and fair treatment is specifically recognized in the conventional compliments of Public Speaking. Though known to be conventional, they still have value, and are ineffective only when compliments degenerate into flattery. Compliment is all the more effective if genuinely sincere.
2. Again, good-will is a fertile source of sympathy. Sympathy is one of the most practical demands of good speaking.
By means of it the speaker reaches the listeners' point of view, feels what they feel, and is guided accordingly. It is the force of the “ one mind.” Interests are identical, the feelings are in accord, and the speaker is heard gladly.
3. The confidential attitude is an important aspect of sympathy. In consequence of it the speaker is sincere, frank, – takes the audience into his thoughts and motives. Opening the channels for free communication, and bringing the mind into close touch, he reaches toward the audience and talks to its individuals.
The confidential attitude is profitably attended to in connection with the voice and bearing. Vocal direction and modulation are immediately affected by it, as is also the physical bearing. The aspirate or half-whispered tone, carefully directed to the individual, is the intense form of the confidential voice. But in speaking, other elements necessarily modify this form. Nothing, however, so develops the agreeable voice as the sympathetic emotions.
An adequate utilization of the principles already discussed will foster that variety which is indispensable to effective speaking. It should, however, be definitely held before the speaking-aim as a point to be realized. The demand for variety is fundamental in the human mind. Nature, with her infinite forms and colors, with her changes, is adapted to satisfy this demand for variety, which in its aspects of change and difference is fundamental in all thinking. Sensation is realized only through change or difference. For instance, the foul odor of a room is not detected by the occupant long accustomed to it. A person coming from out-of-doors, by contrast, at once forcibly appreciates the condition. We have already treated the importance of differentiation in the thinking process. This differentiation manifests itself objectively as variety.
Variety in the aspect of novelty is interesting to the listener. It is a means of keeping the mind alert and attentive, and so reduces the effort of hearing. The mind says, “What next?" and is constantly expectant. The soporific influence of uninteresting discourse, or of monotonous, uniform delivery, is too familiar to most audiences. People sleep well — the senses are dormant under even loud noises when they are uniform. A lull in the delivery or actual pause is more arousing than uniformly loud tones.
Variety must not be capricious. Changes of force, of rate, or of other elements, must grow out of the thought and feeling of the speech. The practice of a prominent preacher, formerly of Boston, well illustrated faulty change. He, in a