This is an old adage for actors that comes from the Japanese founder of Noh theater but can be applied to most of our communication.
There are many times when we feel intensely about something that we want to communicate to an audience. I can remember one time when I was in my early twenties and was riding my bike around a busy street and I wasn’t wearing my helmet. I didn’t think much of it at the time, being that I was only 23 and immortal, but someone drove up next to me and screamed out the car, “Get a f***ing helmet!”
I remember distinctly having two thoughts:
1. He has a point.
2. I may never get a helmet now.
The reason for the second point was that, while I understood the logic behind getting a helmet, I couldn’t help but react to the emotion that he was pouring out of his car at me. This would be an example of emotion being decidedly unpersuasive. Since I have to assume that he was suggesting I get a helmet for my own safety, it is pretty interesting how unpersuasive his argument was.
Actors who are overcome with emotion tend to be sloppy and overwhelming on stage (or just comically bad). If you are an emotional person, either you tend to get upset easily or you are just an effusive type, check to see if you have your output set always on ten. It might be that you are pushing people away or that you are cancelling out your point by being too emotional.
This isn’t to say that emotion is bad. Zeami doesn’t say “When you feel ten, express 3.” If you want your message to be received and you want people to be able to see you and hear you clearly, then it helps to bring down the emotion to a more tolerable level.
In other words, ride the wave of emotion, don’t let it ride you.