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The Hostile and Friendly Audiences

August 28th, 2017 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

A speaker can lead an accepting or friendly audience just about anywhere. Hostile audiences, however, can uncover holes in thought. I recommend the questioning group—especially when the stakes are high.

It was a senior-level course in Electrical Engineering. The teacher, I can’t recall his name, but I do remember that he didn’t have a PhD, just a Master’s and several decades of experience, walked us through the solution to a quirky design problem for 45 minutes. We had it. We knew what to do.

Then he pulled it on us. He showed us how all that stuff he just told us was wrong and would never work.

The Lesson: If you are a friendly audience, i.e., you are not skeptical and you don’t ask any questions, the speaker can lead you through all sorts of nonsense.

The Hostile Audience: the attitude is, “I doubt you, whatever it is you are about to say, so convince me.” Note: the hostile audience holds no personal animosity. It does, however, hold healthy skepticism and asks lots of questions. Sometimes we need the sharp questions, the uncomfortable poke with a stick.

The Friendly Audience: like the classroom full of seniors I was in. We were in awe of the speaker and had no inclination to question anything. There are occasions when a friendly audience is better for all of us. There aren’t many of these situations when we work with adults. They sort of dry up once we become teenagers.

Tags: Adults · Learning · Questions

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