Two ways to make our speech more effective
“How can I make my speech more effective?” We all have probably asked ourselves this question, especially after we tried to persuade someone of something important and failed.
To make our speech more effective to others, let’s first understand a general principle of human psychology by considering how we ourselves decide whether to do something, especially something that we aren’t obliged to do. We usually decide based on two of our faculties: rational and emotional; how much each of these contribute to particular decisions often varies from person to person.
Generally, speech becomes more effective when it appeals to both these faculties. When will it appeal? When it is both sensible and sensitive. Significantly, both these aspects are included in the Bhagavad-gita’s guideline about austerity of speech (17.15).
Sensible: This Gita verse urges us to speak in a way that is truthful and beneficial. Things make sense to us when they ring true to us and when they add value to our life — that is, they expand our understanding of the world’s nature and aid us in navigating it more productively.
Sensitive: The same Gita verse also urges us to speak in a way that is at least non-agitating and at best pleasing. If we feel threatened by something, our emotions rise to the fight-or-flight mode, thereby shifting our focus from determining what is right to defending what we think is right. Once our emotions place us on the defensive, reason gets sidelined — even reasonable points don’t register within us.
What can we do when the truth we need to speak to others is unpalatable? We can take special efforts to speak it as non-agitatingly as possible, thus minimizing their default defensiveness and maximizing our chances of persuading.
To make our speech more effective, make it more sensible — by speaking truthfully and beneficially — and more sensitive: by speaking non-agitatingly and pleasingly.
Think it over:
- How do we usually make decisions about non-obligatory things?
- How can we make our speech more sensible?
- How can we make our speech more sensitive?
17.15: Austerity of speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature.