Persuasive communication is an art, but it can be learned. It introduces a thought that may disagree with the beholder’s beliefs but does so with respect and honor wishing to help him benefit from accepting your idea, your product, your service. It is a process that demonstrates your working hard to understand the value of their point of view and inviting them to reciprocate. It was also one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits: “Seek First to Understand; Then To Be Understood.
I think that our leaders in Washington would do well to remember that and to study a little Shakespeare.
Marc Antony’s speech to the Roman mob at Caesar’s funeral, in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, is the best example I can choose. Anyone can benefit from the skill and subtlety of the writing and how it can be brought to life by perceptive interpretation.
Talk about the ultimate sales pitch: Antony faces a Roman mob incited by Brutus and the senate who justify the murder of Caesar by condemning him as a tyrant and would-be emperor. The Romans are with them and approving in full voice when Antony steps before them, now in some danger himself. He now stands before the Roman mob at Caesar’s funeral and denies that he is here to contradict the noble senators and just wants to bury his friend.
Then he very carefully, slowly, deliberately, skillfully weaves other meaning into his oratory and leads the Romans to exactly the opposite conclusion.
He skillfully moves from:
- A type of penitence to
- Agreement with the senate, followed by
- Some seeming contradictions and then,
- Some real questions.
Eventually, he senses that the mob has turned his way, he allows his tone to turn sarcastic and eventually invites the mob to to condemn the assassins as murderers of a beloved hero and the mob is with him.
Here are two examples of quite different interpretations of this speech, the first in a more classical presentation by the brilliant actor Marlon Brando. The second is a more contemporary, bare-bones delivery by the Royal Shakespeare Company with a a cast that is, I think, African in origin and the phrasing is almost musical.
In both of these, I’ve included only the first few minutes but you will appreciate both the words and how they’re spoken.
Here also is the speech in written form, should you care to read it.
This speech also brings into focus some essential elements from which salespeople and public speakers would benefit. In both cases, they are in the business of opinions of their audiences and sometimes wanting to change those opinions.