A key technique to know if you are writing an editorial, a speech or a persuasive paper for college is something called STICTJ . That is an acronym for Screw Them If They Can’t Take a Joke. Well, let me tell you, that was a joke and is terrible advice. The last thing you want to do, when trying to win someone over to your side, is piss them off in the first paragraph. At least wait until the third paragraph, or at least until you are well outside the range of any bullets, knives, Toyotas or other dangerous weapons.
Actually when I was writing speeches for a nuclear power company, they emphasized that speechwriters should use the Rogerian Strategy. This was named after Fred Rogers, whose first name was Mr. You were suppose to welcome the audience “to the neighborhood” and speak softly and wear cardigan sweaters and this way they would warm up to you and they wouldn’t notice that you were building a big ass nuclear plant in their neighborhood. Sometimes two or three big ass nuclear plants in their neighborhood and any toxic release would not kill them right away, but wouldn’t do much good to their pets. The good news was any release of radiation would make their pets easier to find in the dark, as a glowing cat is hard to miss.
Okay – that last paragraph was totally wrong and totally full of misinformation. That shows that I was well trained as a corporate speechwriter and even today, have trouble telling the truth. Which is why I keep waiting for BP to call me.
But, as usually, I digress. Actually the Rogerian Strategy is an actual writing technique and is named after Carl Rogers who was not Mr. Roger’s brother. Carl Rogers was a very important psychologist who advocated that a writer, in order to win over the audience, had to strive to reduce conflict. In other words, if you piss off your audience right away, they won’t listen to you.
So you try to keep the audience somewhat on your side by saying, “Hey, I see your point of view and I understand where you are coming from.”
Here is an example.
Let say I am writing a speech to an audience and they don’t want a nuclear power plant built in their area. I am NOT going to start the speech, by saying – “You are a bunch of illiterate jerks. You are sitting on your fat asses worrying about radiation from the new power plant, when the truth is you will get more radiation from your television and microwave in your lifetime, than any nuclear power plant.”
That is not following the Rogerian Strategy. You must acknowledge their concerns, show them you understand, and then they might listen to you.
Your opening could be, “We understand the worries and concerns surrounding nuclear power and why you are hesitant to endorse the nuclear power option. Tonight we want to address YOUR concern ….
Hell, you are going to build the nuclear power plant anyway and you have brought the land and paid off the corporation commission, but the Rogerian Strategy is about winning friends and opening their hearts and minds, so they will listen to your pitch.
In short, when writing any persuasive piece, be it an editorial, an essay or a speech; remember the best way to start off is to acknowledge your audience’s concerns. That is the Rogerian strategy advocated by Carl Rodgers, who was not Mr. Rogers’s brother, but could have been his cousin.