June 21, 2024


Imagination at work

Importance of Ethics in Public Speaking

It is a known fact that the goal of public speaking is to gain a desired response from listeners but not at any cost, but we have to look into the branch of philosophy that deals with issues of right and wrong in human affairs “Ethics”

Question of ethics arise whenever we ask if a course of action is moral or immoral, fair or unfair, just or unjust, honest or dishonest.

We face questions daily in almost every part of our lives. The parent must decide how to deal with a child who has been sent home from school for unruly behavior. The researcher must decide to shade her data “just a bit” in order to gain credit for an important scientific breakthrough. The shopper must decide what to do with the $5 extra change mistakenly given by the clerk at the grocery store. The student must decide to say anything about a friend he has seen cheating on a
final exam.

Questions of ethics also come into play whenever a public speaker faces an audience. In an ideal world, as the Greek philosopher Plato noted, all public speakers would be truthful and devoted to the good of society. Yet history tells us that the power of speech is often abused sometimes with disastrous results.

Adolf Hitler was unquestionably a persuasive speaker. His oratory galvanized the German people into following one ideal and one leader. But his aims were horrifying and his tactics despicable. He remains to this day the ultimate example of why the power of the spoken word needs to be guided by a strong sense of ethical integrity.

As a public speaker, you will face ethical issues at every stage of the speech making process from the initial decision to speak through the final presentation of the message. This is true whether you are speaking in the classroom or the courtroom, if you are participating in a business meeting or a religious service, if you are addressing an audience of two people or 2,000 people. And the answer will not always be easy.

Your ethical decisions will be guided by your values, your conscience, your sense of right and wrong. But this does not mean such decisions are simply a matter of personal whim or fancy. Sound ethical decisions involves weighing a potential course of action against a set of ethical standards or guidelines. Just as there are guidelines for ethical behavior in other areas of life, so are there guidelines for ethical conduct in public speaking. These guidelines will not automatically solve every ethical quandary you face as a speaker, but knowing them will provide a reliable compass to help you find your way.

As with other ethical issues, there can be gray areas when it comes to assessing a speakers goal areas in which reasonable people with standards of right and wrong can legitimately disagree. But this is not a reason to avoid asking ethical questions. If you are to be a responsible public speaker, you cannot escape assessing the ethical soundness of your goals.

Your responsibility as a speaker is to ask whether your goals are ethically sound. During world war II, Hitler stirred the German people to condone war, invasion, and genocide. More recently, we have seen politicians who betray the public trust for personal gain, business leaders who defraud investors of millions of dollars, preachers who lead lavish lifestyles at the expense of their religious duties.