The Luther’s effect: How to provoke desired response from audience

On August 28, 1963 from the steps of Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr made a wonderful speech titled ‘I have a dream’ in which he called for an end to racism in the United States and also called for civil and economic rights.

Here are some staggering facts about the speech

  1. Over 250,000 people came to the venue to hear Martin Luther King jr deliver this speech without TV or radio publicity, there was no social media then.
  2. No other gathering has achieved that feat.

iii. 26 per cent of the attendees were whites.

  1. That speech united Americans, what government effort with its huge resources couldn’t do.
  2. That speech made Martin Luther King Jr to be listed among the great men who shaped modern America like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

How could Martin Luther King Jr have gotten such a large number of people to come for his speech without any form of advert?

Functionalism is a school of thought in the field of Psychology which was pioneered by Dr. Williams James of Harvard University, John Dewey, Harvey Carr and John Angell. The functionalists believe that “we act because we feel”.

This point of view has been corroborated by a recurring theorem in Psychology which states that “A large proportion of conscious activities is controlled by unconscious activities”.

This has also been supported by neurologists who observe how the brain functions under the FMRI machine. They have discovered that there is a part of the limbic system of the brain called Amygdala. The Amygdala assists in the development of memories, especially those related to emotional events and emergences.

This is what helped Martin Luther King Jr to motivate 250,000 people to attend his speech. He simply communicated his idea in such a way that it struck the Amygdala of people who shared his value and these people communicated to other people who shared the same value and it went on like that. This has been found to be one of the scientifically based communication styles.

From my experience as a communicator and trainer, I have discovered that one or a combination of the following three communication styles is used especially when it comes to influencing the cognitive, affective or behavioural aspect of a large audience. These communication are responsible for the types of words we use when communicating, the topics we prefer talking about, the nonverbal gesture we make when talking and the voice tone or pitch we project, as well as how we connect with other people.

Here is a summary of the three communication styles:

1) Logical Communication:

This involves a lot of analytical thinking. People who use this type of communication rely on data and empirical evidence to get their points across. For them, one plus one should equal to two. They believe the facts speak for themselves. This is true but not in all cases especially when you are dealing with human behaviour.

Hence their Achilles heel is ‘context.’ They usually don’t give much consideration to the role ‘context’ plays in shaping facts. It is all about rational thinking and common sense as such there is no room for emotion.

2) Affective Communication:

This is a style of communication that moves an audience emotionally. Messages in this type of communication are targeted at the ‘Amygdala.’ This is the most powerful communication style in the sense that it gets the audience excited and ready to respond to the desired goal of the communicator with little or no resistance. And it is also the most dangerous as it lacks rational thinking hence the audience are moved by factors other than facts or truth sometimes.

This type of communication style makes the audience vulnerable to manipulation by the communicator. The people who use this style express high degree of passion and are highly emotional in their approach to communication. It is all about passion, enthusiasm, feeling and perception, not necessarily facts or common sense.

3) Visual Communication:

This type of communication involves the projection of an image or a picture of the situation or idea. This may not necessarily be through drawings, videos or photographs but more of mental imagery and the creation of a mental picture of consequences of an action or the accrued benefits of an idea or action. A very good example is the concept of ‘Paradise’ and ‘Hell’ in theology. Both Christians and Muslims dread ‘Hell fire’ and love ‘Paradise’ but no one has given us a firsthand account of what happens in both of these places except that the two Holy Scriptures have created a vivid imagination of these places in our mind.

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