Is there anything more infuriating than not being heard?

By | October 5th, 2020|Authority, Building Confidence, Difficult conversations, Leadership, Presentation skills, Public speaking|

Some communications lessons from the first US Presidential Debate

We are always keen observers of communications in politics and US politics in particular. Although the first US Presidential debate seems a long time ago given events since then, we wanted to capture some of the lessons we learned last week.

If you stayed up to watch it or watched the highlights the next day what was your reaction? For some it was disbelief, for others fury or hilarity? I personally found myself writhing around in sheer discomfort – especially watching the 7 minute ‘highlights’!

Regardless of your politics, any human being would have had an emotional response in some way to what they witnessed. We’ve been analysing the communication between the two candidates and the lack of respect shown between the two is remarkable. The debate went off the rails, the rules of debate were broken and there was weak moderation to bring it back on track. The result – an unbearable mess to watch.

Here are just a few sins made against the fundamental practice of humane communication:

  • The incessant interrupting and speaking over one another – Trump interrupted Biden 73 times!
  • Personal attacks and shaming –Trump berating Biden’s education and intelligence, Biden calling Trump a liar, a clown and the worst president America has ever seen.
  • The moderator being outright ignored in his interventions.
  • Shutting each other down – ‘will you shut up man?’

These aggressive tactics are a far cry from Michelle Obama’s ‘when they go low, we go high’ doctrine.

One reason that it was so painful to watch is that it tapped into an innate human need to be heard, to be understood, to be acknowledged as a fellow person. It was obvious that Joe Biden in particular was denied that right. It tapped into our inbuilt sense of empathy at injustice. We were able to relate to that feeling from our own experiences when we might have been ignored or berated in public which is what creates that emotional and physical reaction.

It is striking that the communication between two adults pitching to lead the most powerful country in the world could invoke such a primitive response in people. Given President Trump’s illness we don’t know what will happen with future debates. Whatever happens, let’s hope that the human right to be heard is not forgotten.

How to achieve the perfect posture at online meetings

By | April 23rd, 2020|Authority, Body Language, Online meetings, Online video, Presentation skills, Video, Voice|

The correct posture is so important at online meetings to help us not only look calm and relaxed but also to ensure we breathe well. Our Head of Voice at MSB Executive; Steven Maddocks shares his invaluable insights on how to achieve the optimal posture at online meetings.

This video is part of our series to ensure impactful communication at online meetings.

Are PMQs a good demonstration of Authority?

By | November 14th, 2013|Authority, Blog, Body Language, Leadership, Perception|

“PMQs are basically a modern form of cock-fighting, and not a show of great leadership”

So said Stein Ringen last week in a very lively Royal Society of Arts lunchtime lecture entitled “What is Power”. His talk centered on the misconception that power gets things done and reminded the audience that “there is more to the doing than the bidding it be done”; that power actually lies in the ability to persuade and authority is contained in the willingness of those who are led to be persuaded.

Stein’s talk was so good I even bought his latest book  “Nation of Devils – Democratic Leadership and the problem of Obedience”(nicely available outside the talk with a chance to get it signed). But the last mention he made before the end of his talk was the one that made me think the most.  He wondered aloud if party leaders ever looked back at the footage of PMQs after the Wednesday debate. If so he stated that they must be embarrassed to see themselves as two grown men shouting at each other. He likened it to a modern form of cock-fighting: a good spectator sport but hardly an impressive show of real authority.

We sometimes watch PMQs as the body language employed is fascinating.  It is an excellent barometer of leadership confidence and the swagger or display of the leaders can often look like two cockerels before a fight.  But in some ways that reminds us that the power of these leaders lies in the hands of those who carry out their decisions.

We would never advocate some of the bellowing and braying tactics as valuable transferrable skills to use in the boardroom. Shouting over others opinions and derisory guffawing at another’s suggestions are unlikely to increase your authority at work and thus will diminish your power of persuasion to get things done.  Are PMQs another reason why voters are often said to be losing faith in politicians because what it actually demonstrates is a lack of authority and control?

Thanks to the RSA for organising such a fascinating debate, looking forward to reading the book.

Stein Ringen’s book “Nation of Devils – Democratic Leadership and the problem of Obedience” is out now.

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