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10 Bridges Of Sympathy

July 7, 2010 fm

“Christian Angele from Berlin-based imedo.de was an enthusiastic participant in my seminar. I loved his feedback on how I could have built an even better ‘bridge of sympathy’ between myself and the group. The bridge of sympathy is a great metaphor to describe what you as a public speaker should always make your top priority: to make the audience feel that you are one of them, that you understand their feelings, their needs, their worries, their visions, and their dreams.

How can you build that bridge of sympathy? Sympathy is all about sharing emotions and feelings, resonating with each other. Think of some beautiful and some horrible events in your life, things that others in the audience will have experienced as well.” [from The Seven Minute Star, page 67]

Let’s cross 10 bridges of sympathy together –  5 sad bridges and 5 happy bridges. Both work well to establish an emotional connection with your audience. From experience I’d say that the sad ones are more powerful.

5 sad bridges of sympathy

  • “Who of you guys have lost a loved one?” — We all have lost loved ones.
  • “Childhood can be a real bastard!” — For some of us childhood was a disaster.
  • “Who of you have felt lonely once?” — Who hasn’t felt lonely once?
  • “My father died two years ago…” — It is likely that quite a high percentage of the audience have lost a parent.
  • “I wish I could turn back time and be there for my classmate when he suffered from cancer.” — We are not perfect, we all have our weaknesses, and yes – we do commit mistakes in life. Share them with the audience – you are not alone!

With these short phrases you will build bridges of sympathy with the audience. Of course, they can also be of positive nature.

5 happy bridges of sympathy

  • “I don’t know about you guys… For me it was a sweet, but also a strange moment in life… my first kiss!” — Everyone in the audience experienced it: the first kiss. If you call it both a strange and a sweet moment, you will have them all on your side.
  • “I lived some of the best moments of my life when I went camping with my friends – without parents!” — Freedom and independence are among the biggest values of adolescents. Most of them will identify themselves with your statement.
  • “You feel you are the king of the world for one day! Birthday parties are much cooler when you are a kid, aren’t they?” — The smiles and great vibes of our family, neighbors and friends that day – we all have them saved as beautiful memories.
  • “The birth of my son changed every aspect of my life. Suddenly I knew what was really important.” — All parents in the audience will nod their heads.
  • “A tap on your shoulder by your best friend when you really need it feels so good, doesn’t it?” — We all need best friends sometimes.

When you build bridges of sympathy into your speech, please make sure you make good use of body language. It is needless to say that you should look rather sad when talking about a sad topic.

A final tip: Use rather long pauses after building a bridge of sympathy. Give the audience time enough to dig deep into their own memories.

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