Extrinsic credibility is only one aspect of credibility. Your total credibility speaker consists of how you are perceived by the audience before your spe plus the impressions you make while delivering it. In other words, a speaker comes into a speaking situation with some level of credibility and adds to o? detracts from it by what is said. Intrinsic credibility is the name often given to this image that a speaker creates as a direct result of his or her speech.
Former President Ronald Reagan was referred to as the "Great Communicator." He gave many eloquent speeches, such as when he reassured the country as well as the families of the astronauts who had died in the Challenger explosion in January 1986. He said that they had "slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God." (Reagan, Ronald, 1989, p. 400).
Each of us may be accomplished in some way or make certain claims about our good character or even be a poised and dynamic speaker. By and large, however, we are not perceived as high-credibility sources. for increasing our credibility come during the actual presentation of our speech.
One way in which you may increase your intrinsic credibility as a speaker is by establishing a common ground between you and your audience. This rhetorical technique has been successfully used for centuries. For example, Daniel J. Boorstin, a well-known historian, opened a speech to an audience of Associated Press managing editors with these remarks:
Gentlemen, it's a great pleasure and privilege to be allowed to take part in your meeting. It is especially a pleasure to come and have such a flattering introduction, the most flattering part of which was to be called a person who wrote like a newspaperman.
The historians, you know, sometimes try to return the compliment by saying that the best newspapermen write like historians but I'm not sure how many of the people present would consider that a compliment.
This afternoon I would like to talk briefly about the problems we share, we historians and newspapermen, and that we all share as Americans. (Boorstin, in Linkugel et al., 1969, p. 204)
Boorstin attempted to show his listeners that he was sympathetic to their point of view and that he and they shared certain things—notably, that they_ were writers, that they had some of the same problems, and that they were Americans. As you may recall from Chapter 3, balance theory predicts that similarities tend to increase liking and that in general we tend to like those who agree with us on a substantial proportion of salient issues. Thus it is quite possible that a speaker's intrinsic credibility will increase if he or she can convince the audience that a common ground exists between them.
Another influence on the character dimension of credibility is humor. Many speakers use humor as a means of ingratiating themselves with the audience. Bill Russell, former player-coach of the Boston Celtics, applied this approach to advantage in an address to members of a small college. He would like to say, he remarked, that it was a rare privilege to be in their town and he would like to say that this stop was one of the highlights of his travels. Then Russell paused. The laughter of the audience indicated that they knew this was not true. Russell then went on to say that he could honestly say that he was very happy to have the chance to meet and speak with the people in the audience.
Research on the use of humor in speeches indicates that though it may not increase the listeners' understanding or change their attitude toward the speaker's topic, it affects their perception of the person's character. In general, they like a speaker more when he or she uses humor (Gruner, 1970).
In a recent summary of research, Gruner (1985) offers six suggestions for the use of humor in public communication:
1. "A modicum of apt, relevant humor in informative discourse will probably produce a more favorable audience reaction toward the speaker" (p. 142). The effect is on ratings of "character" and not the other dimensions of credibility.
2. "Humor that is self-disparaging may further enhance speaker image" (p. 142). The self-disparaging remarks, however, need to be indirect, more "witty" than of low humor, and "based on clever word-play, not direct exaggeration of one's own personal defects" (p. 143).
3. "Apt, relevant humor in a speech can enhance interest in that speech; this generalization must be qualified and limited, however" (p. 143). The limitation is this: this applies only when other factors that might raise interest (e.g., suspense or an animated delivery) are not present.
4. "Apt, relevant humor seems not to influence the effectiveness of persuasive speeches either negatively or positively" (p. 144).
5. "Humor may or may not make a speech more memorable" (p. 144). There is some mixed evidence, but it seems that humor helps recall a little, especially in the long run (delayed recall).
6. "The use of satire as a persuasive device may have unpredictable results" (p. 144). The problem is that sometimes audience members do not perceive the serious thesis of the satire.
Other variables that have been found to increase a speaker's credibility are effective delivery, apparent sincerity, the use of relevant evidence, and a clear pattern of organization. We shall have more to say about some of these variables further along in this chapter.
Another significant influence on how we judge the speaker is delivery. For years two guidelines for effective delivery have been naturalness and poise. A speaker's delivery should not draw attention from the content of the message—as it might, for example, if it were overly dramatic or reflected lack of confidence. Hamlet's advice to a group of actors was similar:
Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounce it to you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the towncrier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus; but use all gently: for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. (Act 3, Scene 2)
Good delivery involves much more than mere fluency in speaking. It includes the effective use of many of the visual and vocal cues we discussed in Chapter 2: eve contact, hand gestures, posture, and general physical appearance as well as vocal quality, pitch, volume, and rate of speech.