Here's the secret to winning people over — even if you're very different

Salon talks to Jay Heinrichs, a master rhetorician, about the essential art of persuasion

By D. Watkins
September 26, 2017 10:57PM (UTC)
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Have you ever addressed a group of young people and felt like a dinosaur? You make a reference to a house phone or a typewriter and the whole crowd looks up from their iPhones in utter confusion?

I have. Luckily, Jay Heinrichs, master rhetorician and author of "Thank You for Arguing," sat down with me for a recent episode of "Salon Talks" to offer some pointers on connecting with different audiences.


Heinrichs has traveled the world as a presenter and persuasion guru. His books are used to teach the construction of successful arguments in classrooms across the country. He says the power in rhetoric belongs to the listener, so people who can understand an audience best also have it.

"The most important tool of all when you are talking to a group of people is decorum. Now you think of decorum as like how you hold your fork or something in a restaurant. But decorum comes from the Latin word that means 'fitting in,'" explained Heinrichs, “So, it’s like survival of the fittest, socially. So for me, [I think] how do I fit in with a group that’s usually younger than me? Maybe of all kinds of different ideologies?"

“What I try to do is find out ahead of time is who that audience is going to be and I find out all I can about them,” he added.


Watch our full "Salon Talks" conversation on Facebook.

Tune into Salon's live shows, "Salon Talks" and "Salon Stage," daily at noon ET / 9 a.m. PT and 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT, streaming live on Salon and on Facebook.

D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a professor at the University of Baltimore and founder of the BMORE Writers Project. Watkins is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America” and "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir." His latest book, "We Speak For Ourselves: A Word From Forgotten Black America," is out now.

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Audience Authors Books Jay Heinrichs Public Speaking Rhetoric Salon Talks Thank You For Arguing