I [Grant] have been teaching again in my Advanced Trial Advocacy class on Patsy Rodenburg’s book, The Second Circle, and decided this month that I would dovetail a bit with Jules’s excellent post last month on how the voice persuades.[1]  While this month’s post isn’t necessarily about new research, my hope is that you find it “new-to-you” and of some use to you as you as a professor, coach, or advocate.

For some background, Patsy Rodenburg, a rather famous acting coach, proposed the idea that people work, speak, breathe, teach, persuade, and live in one of what she calls the “three circles of energy.”  The first circle of energy is an energy that “falls back into you” and never really leaves your orbit.  Patsy Rodenburg, The Second Circle 16 (2nd ed. 2017).  First circle energy can be sullen, contemplative, indifferent, subdued, or selfish.  By contrast, the third circle of energy is an energy that pushes out from you and into, or even right through, others.  It can be aggressive, arrogant, controlling, overly enthusiastic, or falsely positive.  It’s energy that leaves your orbit and is pushed out of you, propelled by your will.  The second circle of energy, however, is the energy of presence.  It’s defined by a mutual exchange of energy between you and another, or you and a group, or even you and an object—like an instrument you’re playing—in which you’re devoting your energy to the living moment and receiving energy back from that person or thing in the moment with you.  Each circle of energy has its place, but it’s the second circle where we give the most to life and receive the most from it.  Id. at xiv.

In her book, Rodenburg writes extensively about the voice, how it reveals which circle it’s emanating from, and that recalls to my mind last month’s post about how the voice persuades.  If you hear a first circle voice, one that sounds indifferent, sullen or detached, do you find yourself moved by it or do you find it saps your energy? By contrast, a third circle voice projects energy out like a steamroller.  Have you really felt moved by a speaker who—with his shoulders pulled back and head high—tried to persuade you to think a certain way using ear-splitting volume and the insistence of his demands on you?  He might actually hold your attention, but are you really interacting with his ideas or just riding along on his wave?

If last month’s post was about how the brain responds to things like timbre, volume, pitch, etc., then this month’s post is simply to frame the personal context for why a persuasive voice moves us.  For Rodenburg, it’s this: a second circle voice is the voice of intimacy, equality, and connection, and our brain likes those things. See Id. at 79-82. When we see a student glued to her notes on opening statement, we inevitably hear a first circle voice.  When you have a student shouting into the wall behind his jury, demanding a conviction, you hear a third circle voice.  But if you’ve had a conversation with a student or colleague where the exchange of ideas and energy was equal, you likely still remember it.  You can recall the feelings you had in those moments.  You remember feeling engaged and feeling as though you were also engaging.  That is the second circle.  For the students we have who crawl inside their notes or bully their way through a closing argument, Rodenburg encourages us to reveal to them their most persuasive self—who they are when they are actually present with their audience and speaking in second circle energy.

[1] I want to give credit here to Rafe Foreman, attorney and instructor at Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College, for turning me on to Patsy Rodenburg’s work and writing.