What motivates an audience?  As a speaker or writer, your motive is not what compels your audience; it is their motive.

So, what is their motive?

Dr. Jeff Myers, in his book Secrets of Great Communicators, says that research has found that people are motivated by three things:

  • Unity
  • Order
  • Progress

According to Myers, unity means that people are motivated by a desire for community with other like-minded individuals. Order means they want protection from chaos and want their lives to make sense. Progress means they want to grow richer in “knowledge, expertise, money, and life experiences.”

If a communicator understands these three ideas that motivate people, he or she will have persuasive power. According to Myers, these are “default” motivators; even if you do not know who your audience is, these factors apply to a large majority of people.

In addition, he lists a few more motivators:

  • Acceptance (popularity or respect)
  • Adventure (an exciting or rewarding experience)
  • Altruism (acting with others’ best interests)
  • Attractiveness (to others)
  • Freedom from restraint (the liberty to do as they wish, such as to make beneficial and economic and social choices)
  • Security (self-preservation)

When we talk about “persuasion” (as has been the overall focus of this series on communication), however, the question arises as to why and how such tools should be used.  The purpose of learning these tools is for sharing truth and good news, not for evil, and not to persuade any audience toward some wrongful end.

Dr. Myers lists some guidelines to remember:

  • An audience is not a means to an end (for example, to scare people into thinking the world is about to end and to invest in some sort of questionable scheme)
  • It is wrong to pressure someone into a decision they do not want to make (i.e., do not be a pushy salesman who will not take no for an answer)
  • It is wrong to use force (i.e., using physical force or even wearing people down emotionally or under pressure is wrong)
  • It is wrong to threaten people
  • It is wrong to obscure the truth (i.e., it is wrong to leave out important details or obscure them in “fine print”)

Colossians 4:6 says “Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.”  Myers says “grace and truth lead to respect and belief.” Gracious speakers and leaders who do not compromise earn respect and the ability to influence the world for truth.

Sadly, the current drama in American politics this election season is a far cry from speech that is gracious. We have not witnessed leaders who take the stand for truth and righteousness, truly repent of wrongful behavior, or sacrificially extend themselves to others. With so many people upset and flabbergasted at the choices this election cycle, it is astounding to think how we even arrived at this place. It would be an interesting exercise to study the candidates’ speech patterns and determine what words or phrases seemed persuasive. The other side of the coin is the audience: what sort of audience have we become? (Some would say blind, gullible, and naive. But that is  different topic entirely.) Either way, many Americans find themselves in the middle of a moral voting dilemma; many are greatly concerned over the ramifications of either choice and the trajectory of this country, no matter who wins.  Much is at stake (religious liberty, for one thing).

Now that this post has digressed a bit onto the topic of current degenerative political speech,  it is important to remember that examples of good and gracious communication do exist. Reading excellent literature and past great speeches are good places to start learning and developing a gracious, articulate, honest, compelling, and persuasive voice. Today, there are many virtuous, intelligent, and respected writers, speakers, thinkers, and leaders who are speaking out in truth, and for truth, and doing so graciously and winsomely.

These are wise words to remember:  “grace and truth lead to respect and belief”.

Question for you:  Name some communicators that practice gracious speech that you admire. Study their speech or writing. Do you observe any patterns? What can you learn from them?

**This is Day 14 of a month long series**