Audiences and readers bring a number of different attitudes to the discussion of any issue. Speakers and writers can expect :
1. Who do you want as your audience or readers? Believers, who already accept what you have to say?
When you talk or write to believers, you have an audience who holds essentially the same beliefs that you have. Often an audience of believers will agree with almost everything you say.
When Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Zionist lobby group AIPAC or the US Congress, he’s talking to believers.
When Barack Obama address Congress, he’s lucky to get fifty percent acceptance from his audience. Only some of his listeners are believers.
Preachers, priests and Imams talking to their congregations have audiences who attend their sermons because they believe in the speaker and his message.
2. Do you want to try to convert deniers who refuse to accept almost anything you have to say? They reflect the opposite of audiences for believers.
Deniers declare opposition untrue or they refuse to accept or recognize legitimate differing views.
Following national party politics might readily convince listeners that efforts to change minds are impossible time-wasters. Yet strong deniers have been known to occasionally become converts with the right kind of persuasion.
A stunning example of this happened with the change in political orientation of a number of early readers of Ayn Rand’s novels. Several strongly committed liberals became conservatives overnight.
Though it’s rare for any transformation from deniers to believers happening from listening to a speaker, there are examples of it in literary works.
Epiphanies, like those found in James Joyce’s Dubliners and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird provide good examples of what some call “an aha moment”.
A sudden, powerful, and often spiritual or life changing realization that a character experiences in an otherwise ordinary moment is an epiphany that can change denial to a belief.
3. Do you want to provide evidence and reassurance to doubters who question most of what you argue?
The doubters that writers or speakers are concerned with are looking for answers.
They have questions about the accuracy of facts, events, identities and testimony. They want to probe deeply into a writer’s premises, the logic of his argument, and the conclusions he draws.
He says, in effect, that he will support your position if you answer his questions satisfactorily.
With the right kind of evidence, the doubter can become a believer. Much of what’s found in op-ed columns is fodder for the doubter.
They develop interests in things that they were apathetic about only when the shoe pinches and not before.
They’re preoccupied with their jobs, their families, sports, films, a favourite news and entertainment channel.
Since the internet has made quick fixes popular through Facebook and twitter, the apathetic will spend a little time with those social networks.
- Believers need a fresh approach to what they already accept and may know more about than you.
- Deniers have their minds made up; don’t attempt to confuse them with the facts.
- Doubters need answers to questions that could involve every aspect of your message.
- Apathetic audiences can only be stimulated by fear or anger at public policy or action that directly affects them.
The important thing to remember is that some audiences are unreachable; and those that can be reached need convincing answers.