Good speakers can harness the power of love and foster togetherness by creating moments of identification — when both audience and speaker forget the differences between them by recognizing that they are alike in some fundamental way. Aristotle called this the establishment of goodwill whereas more recent thinkers might describe the connection as establishing “common ground.” Ultimately, successful speakers transport their audiences to a place of understanding through feelings of love.
Let’s look at an example of identification in action. Not too long ago I posted the following status update on an online social networking site: “Watching the television show Paradise Hotel. Wow!” Paradise Hotel is a television show that documents single men and women who attempt to stay in a luxury hotel in a tropical location while dating one another. Minutes after I posted my status update, three of my friends responded with messages like, “I know! I can’t believe it!” and “This show documents the worst of humanity!” With these messages my friends were telling me that they felt similar to the way I felt about the show. As I watched, my friends and I bonded over our horrified response. This feeling of bonding is “identification,” and creating it is one of the keys to success in public speaking.
Finally, we can’t mention BAVs without discussing behavior. Like changing values, changing behavior is very difficult. Speakers are more successful when trying to influence beliefs or attitudes and less successful when attempting to change values or behaviors. Understanding that audiences are psychologically predisposed toward maintaining the status quo is important to keep in mind, if for no other reason than it will help temper your ambition as a speaker into something more realistic.