Cognition and Emotion: a Public-Speaker’s Combination

July 15, 2018 Public Speaking No Comments

Human rationality has not evolved without the human emotional side. And vice versa. Of course: how could it have been otherwise?

Emotional and rational

Emotional brain structures have not evolved unchanged from animal ancestry towards humanity. In fact, they have evolved most of all.

Even more, the ‘more ancient’ emotional structures have evolved in concordance with more cognitive, cortical ones. The brain is ‘made to work as a whole’. As a result of this:

Emotional and cognitive parts of the brain are intermingled.

Emotional parts are very ‘cognitive’ inside (= ‘information processing’: computation, calculation, learning). Moreover, they are also related to other cognitively complex brain areas. They don’t function in an emotional container.

At the other side, cognitive parts also never work without much communications with emotional parts. Moreover, they are quite under influence of hormones that we see as ‘emotional’ drivers within the functioning of the brain.

Thus, we are not <emotional animals> + <rationality>.

We are human all-in-all.

Thus, do not debase your emotional side!

It’s so much better to value it and to further develop it. By debasing your emotional side, you make it an image of your preconception. That’s a pity.

The most important consequence for public-speaking

People walk away with 4% of your content. With an emotional response however, people feel changed and may even decide to change their life based on how you make them feel.

Superficial feelings -> superficial change.

Deep feelings -> deep change.

Additionally, they also retain more of the content.

It’s not altogether easy. If people don’t want to change, they need only one argument to (not) change. All the arguments at the other side don’t do much. Nevertheless, your job is to make them want to change.

So, yes, you may and should ‘talk to emotions’, but see these as VERY cognitively complex. Otherwise, you debase them and that would be very much a pity.

You can of course do so and in many circumstances, it’s the easier way.

But you shouldn’t, if you talk ‘towards a better world’, by supporting people’s growth. An important part of this ‘growth’ lies in evolving towards deeper and more qualitative feelings.

Also when making your audience do a little exercise: try to reach your public emotionally, in a deep and rational way. Not just at surface level. Although the latter may be easier, it’s denigrating the possibly fathomless depth of your public’s emotions.

As a speaker, also listen to your own emotions

even if your subject is very cognitive / intellectual. Your audience experiences this. It makes you more human. It gives trust to your audience.

They also feel the sincerity of your emotions. So, don’t make a second-rate show of it. Show yourself genuinely. Let your emotions be as intermingled with your rational content as they are with your rational self.

People forgive much but not a lack of passion.

By valuing your own emotions, you show your public how to value theirs. This is a kind of one-to-many coaching experience.

That is finally what a good public speaker is: a good one-to-many coach, an Open Leader [see: ‘Open Leaderschip’].

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