— Baltasar Gracian (1601-1658)
Gracian’s aphorism is a nice touchstone for “tone,” which is so crucial to winning over an audience. In a debate with a skeptic, keep in mind that the key audience is not your opponent; it’s the silent onlookers. Focusing on the skeptic across the table is like a trial lawyer trying to persuade the opposing attorney. Forget him! Stay focused on the jury, who are listening to both your words and your “music.”
Assume that the “jury” includes at least one partially-open minded person, who is trying to decide whom to believe. Often as not, they will decide whether to trust you based on your tone, attitude, values, identity and likeability, as much or more than your facts.
Listen to some of the masters in Great Presentations/Home Runs!. They all stay friendly, calm, confident, and undefensive, no matter what is thrown at them. And when correcting some misinformation, they are gentle with other people’s self-esteem.
The Gracian quote, from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647) is worth keeping in mind when answering skeptics.