“YOU ALL DID LOVE HIM ONCE...”
Mark Antony’s speech in Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar is my favorite example of what I call, “speaking into the listening” of an audience, any audience - particularly a hostile one - and in the process, turning the tide in your favor. We are all, no matter our profession, more and more frequently faced with an uphill battle in our effort to make a sale - whether we’re pitching a new product, a new service, a new program - or ourselves. Budgets are beyond tight, “management” in most companies is under intense pressure to play it safe and sit tight. Or, we simply run into a situation where the cards are stacked against us because of entrenched points of view that are at odds with what we’re pitching.
Mark Antony faced the latter situation: a crowd of Romans who enthusiastically celebrated the murder of his friend, the Emperor, Julius Caesar - plotted, executed and justified by Brutus who said he was an ambitious tyrant whose death was good for the Republic. As Mark Antony entered the Forum, he hears, “This Caesar was a tyrant!” from the First Citizen. And from the Third Citizen, “We are blest that Rome is rid of him!" So what’s the first thing Mark Antony does as he begins to speak? He makes them “right." He makes Brutus “right”...and even “noble”:
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious; if it were so, it was a grievous fault and grievously hath Caesar answered it.” Since Marc Anthony wasn’t criticizing Brutus whom the crowd thought of as a great hero, they could relax...and begin to listen. So Mark Antony takes the next step: He suggests that there might be another way of looking at the situation...by posing some questions:
“When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff...” and “You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?” The crowd becomes pensive. They hadn’t thought of it that way. And then comes what for me marks the turning point in the speech: Antony says, “You all did love him once, not without cause: What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?”
Next he brings it home by showing emotion: “Bear with me; for my heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, and I must pause till it come back to me.” At that point he has them. The Third Citizen says, “There’s not a nobler man in Rome than Antony.” And the First Citizen declares, “We’ll burn the house of Brutus!” And the Second Citizen chimes in with, “Most noble Caesar! We’ll revenge his death"
And here’s Mark Antony’s final bit of brilliance: He did not urge them on; nor did he try to stop them. He let them own their decision. He simply stood by... and nodded his approval.
So, have you got a challenging pitch coming up? One where the bias might not be in your favor? Try the “Mark Antony Techique” and...“speak into the listening” of your audience:
- Make them “right” to have the point of view they have...and let them see that you understand why.
- Pose a question that suggests there might be another way of looking at “it.”
- Present your recommendation with passion...for the ultimate results that could be generated.
- Let your audience “own” the decision...to act.
And then, lean back and enjoy your win.
Here’s Marlon Brando in an excerpt from one of his most famous roles: playing Mark Antony...
Gail Blanke’s Lifedesigns©2014 All Rights Reserved
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