Speech Patterns: The Proposition-to-Proof versus The Problem-Solution Method

Knowing different methods for creating persuasive speeches is useful so that you can use a variety of styles while being aware of each style’s drawbacks. The two methods I’ll be discussing will be the proposition-to-proof method and the problem-solution method. 

The proposition-to-proof method uses a pattern by which the speaker begins with a statement of one’s proposition, then follow with proofs that support it. For example, if your purpose is to influence others to vote for a specific proposal, you would begin by stating, “Vote for Proposition H, a ballot proposition that reduces the penalties for criminals of non-violent crimes.” Then you would continue with reasons that support your proposition such as facts and logic. For example, you may say something like:

  • “We spend more money on building prisons than schools.” 
  • “Criminals of non-violent crimes such as stealing are people of color of color, due to systematic discrimination in our laws”
  • “The victim of non-violent crimes such as drug abuse is themselves, by further punishing them with harsh penalties such as prison sentences, we are further victimizing them and creating burdens to society instead of rehabilitating them back as productive member of society”

One drawback to this method is that the speaker may not discuss the opposite position in the first place, in our example’s case it would be why penalties are TOO severe for non-violent crimes. This is known as playing devil’s advocate, a position in which someone takes that they don’t necessarily agree with for the sake of exploring the topic further or debate (Smith, 2017).

I believe it is necessary to play devil’s advocate when giving a speech so that your listener’s can get  both angles of a story. Then once you are done discussing the opposite position (by playing devil’s advocate) you can take the devil’s mask off and refute all those points. 

The Problem-Solution Method

Another method that public speakers like to use is the problem-solution method of public speaking introduces a problem and discusses the solutions for it (Brent, 2018). At first glance, it may seem similar to the proposition-to-proof method, however, if you observe both methods clearly, you’ll notice that they are opposites of each other. The proposition-to-proof-method provides a call to action or solution, then discusses the problem, while the problem-solution method does the opposite by discussing a problem and then discussing the solution.

One drawback to problem solution method is that the solution may be a false dilemma. A false dilemma is a fallacy in which the speaker only provides two solutions to a problem,  when in reality there may exist other options (Hendrick’s, 2018). This A or B thinking is dangerous as it tricks listeners into thinking that there are only two possible solutions to a problem, which then disregards other possible solutions that may exist.

Conclusion

It is important to know different structures of persuasive speech so that one can identify the drawbacks to each and be prepared to tackle them when they are brought up. The proposition-to-proof method suffers from not playing devil’s advocate and the problem-solution method may be weakened by the false dilemma fallacy. In fact, both methods could suffer from either of those drawbacks. The key is to know how speeches are structured and be prepared to handle drawbacks when they are brought up.

References:

Brent, M. (2018, January 16). What are the five organizational patterns for public speaking?. Retrieved from https://bizfluent.com/info-8540323-five-organizational-patterns-public-speaking.html (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Hendricks, S. (2018, February). 10 logical mistakes you make every day, and what to do instead. Retrieved from http://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/ten-logical-mistakes-you-make-everyday-and-what-to-instead (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

“Persuade with power.” (2018) Lunch Toastmasters. Retrieved from http://www.lucantoastmasters.com/competent-communication/persuade-with-power/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Smith, S. (2017, July 27). Using the devil’s advocate” to your advantage, even when sometimes it feels insane. Retrieved from https://itscoffeeti.me/using-the-devils-advocate-to-your-advantage-even-when-sometimes-it-feels-insane-435788c9c4b7

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