The UK is gearing up for what is going to be a fractious and hard fought election. In the first of several leaders’ debates these politicians are desperate to use covert persuasion skills to push the vote their way. Discover their dirty tricks right here.
In this article you have a phenomenal opportunity to learn a lot about Hypnotic Persuasion Skills. You will see people using their skills in a head to head debate and I will talk you through some of the stuff they are doing, what works, what doesn’t and how you can develop some of these skills for yourself.
A Leaders’ Debate
The UK is gearing up for a general election. Last Thursday night there was a televised leaders’ debate where I noticed lots of NLP Persuasion Techniques being used. Sadly for the most part not very well. In this article we will analyse some real examples given to us in the debate.
Below is a video of the whole debate. This article is not about the content of what they have to say and whilst my political biases may show this article is really about the way they deliver the message not the message itself. I will be as neutral in my writing as I can.
How to Get the Most From this Article
You will get the best from this if you can leave your political ideology and affiliation aside and just look at how they deliver the message. This is a wonderful opportunity because you don’t often get the chance to see seven different people head to head using their persuasive ability with differing agendas, ideology and styles. It is a great time to compare and contrast their skills.
The next thing I want you to be aware of is the context they are in is a live political debate. You may not find yourself in that environment but everything they do can be applied to presentations and individual conversations. This article is long enough without me going through applications for specific techniques so I will do that in subsequent articles but for the moment just keep a couple of questions in your head.
- How would I tweak that to make it usable for me?
- How will I be able to see what impact it has?
- How can I practice that so it becomes a natural part of the way that I do things?
That is a simple way of staying focused on the important thing which is about how you can develop some of these skills for yourself.
Don’t Watch the Whole Video Unless You Want To
I would suggest that instead of watching the video (it is over two hours long for a start) you just play the opening statements so you know who each of them. We can gain a lot from just this and whilst I may take bits from further on I will restrict myself generally to the opening statements.
But try this after the watching the opening statements. Turn the sound off and just watch little bits of each of them throughout the whole debate. Just focus on the body language and see what you pick up.
By the way for some reason the titles are on for the first 12 minutes of the video. I think I have managed to set the video to start in the right place but in case not you need to just click through that to get to the debate.
Remember this is about the delivery and not the message so for the most part what they are talking about is not relevant. The opening statements were prepared and rehearsed speeches but they can still tell a lot about the candidate and how they want to come across.
Later in the parts where they have to answer without a pre-planned responses (I think probably for the most part they knew what was likely to come up and they had key talking points practised anyway) you will see a more natural style but for the most part they were all desperately trying to keep within the “styles” they had been coached in.
What You Say vs. How You Say It
We will mainly focus on body language but in a few spots we will look at the language they use and the hidden persuasion elements that they are hoping to create with it. If you need a pointer or two on how language works in this sort of environment have a look at this article about Presuppositions Inherent in Language.
So here are a few points of interest with some of the opening statements:
Natalie Bennett is one of the least experienced and coached of the leaders. I say this because of her stilted delivery and rather artificial way that she uses gestures and pauses. She is also quite nervous. The plus side to her though is all of that it makes her appear more human. The only issue is the balancing act she needs to do between appearing vulnerable and appearing credible enough to lead her party and the government if she got the vote.
Using Hand Gestures to Anchor Values
There were a couple of places where she used her gestures in a planned way. In the first she is talking about values and principles and why she got into politics. As she goes through her speech she gestures away from herself and towards the other parties when she starts talking about fears. And then at the end she points to herself using “We” to connect her to the audience and bring everything back to hope.
Nigel Farage has one main agenda for the UK and that is to leave the European Union. One key election strategy that he is using is that his party is different from all the others and that his party “speaks for the common people of Briton”.
Notice how hard he works to appear to be talking as if he is having a normal conversation. It is still very stilted in the opening statements because he has been (quite badly) rehearsed but when you get into the rest of the debate you will see that he has much more normal conversational style body language.
Separating Yourself From the Competition
The most interesting thing about Farage in his opening though is he spends the first few moments lumping all the parties together in their support of the European Union and explains why that is a bad thing. He then poses the question, “Is it any wonder that trust has broken dwon?” He did all of this with a particular gravitas and then a little pause (I think he should have held it just a little longer) and then a subtle change in body language and tone of voice to say, “Well I represent UKiP and I believe in Briton…”
What he has done here is use a common persuasion tactic. He has built up the problem, associated all his competition with the problem and attached them to the biggest issue in politics…the lack of trust. He then starts talking about UKiP as a solution and to make sure the audience knows that he is now telling us how to get out of the problem he completely changes his tone of voice and body language.
He continues moving towards his solution injecting more energy into his delivery. Compare the beginning and the end of his opening statement and you will notice the difference in his delivery.
Trust, Liking, Authority and Content
The polls after the debate showed Nigel Farage to be seen as the most trustworthy member of the panel. A little way in you will see he sort of loses his temper with the rest of the panel. It is obviously planed and mocked up but it is quite demonstrative and shows him to be apart from the rest of the panel. I think because of that and his more naturalistic style he gained the trust factor even though the same polls said people didn’t like what he had to say.
In terms of leadership trust is an important factor and it doesn’t mean people will follow you. You need to build up authority i.e. a belief that you can take the people through the journey and they have to like where you want to take them. So whilst Farage was most trusted you will see in parts of the debate the audeince really didn’t like what he had to say.
Nick Clegg is currently deputy prime minister in a coalition government. He is one of the most experienced and coached individuals in the debate. You can tell from the precision of his body language. Notice he starts with nice big expansive gestures to draw us in and then he gets very closed and precise when he starts the “…what you will get from me…”
Making the Change from Friendly to Authoritative
This tactic is geared to take you from ‘nice approachable friendly guy’ to ‘I have something important to say and have the gravitas to say it’ It is the contrast between these two positions that make it work.
Nicola Sturgeon is the Scottish first minister and leader of a party that has recently failed to gain independence for Scotland from the UK. Her party is in a position where no one in the rest of the UK wants to work with her because they know their ultimate agenda is still for Scottish independence. So she has the job of getting the rest of the UK to trust her whilst at the same time make sure her Scottish supporter still believe she is working for their independence.
Inoculating Against Criticism
In that respect she has used a specific tactic that I would call inoculation. She has brought out all the criticisms that people are going to level at her, said that they are true and reframed them as good points. She has basically said…yes I want an independent Scotland but what is good about working towards that is also good for the rest of the UK and therefore we can all work towards this as friends.
The other thing really to note about her is the way she uses her body language. She has a lot of debating skills but I suspect not as much coaching as Cameron or Clegg. She is the first minister of her country so she has taken an authoritative air. Notice that she doesn’t really use her hands. She uses head nods for emphasis and I think that will get more controlled as she moves through her political career but throughout her opening address she maintains an open and authoritative air.
David Cameron is the current Prime Minister. He has one thing none of the other panellists has and that is a track record for the last five years as leader of the UK. The problem he has is that he has very little to gain from this debate and if he is drawn to far into the debate with a few wrong words could lose heavily.
He is also one of the two people that will be Prime Minister after the election. Because of the system and the political landscape in the UK either Cameron or Ed Milliband will be Prime Minister in the new government. As such Cameron has everything to lose and nothing to gain from this debate.
He knows everyone will attack him on his track record so right from the start his key objective is to frame and reframe as much as he can that track record in a good light. He also uses the inoculation route. He tells the audience what his competition are going to say about him and how that is wrong. He then explains how it really is and how everything they have done benefits the country.
Taking a Ministerial Stance
You will also see Cameron’s agenda is to appear aloof, magisterial and disengage from any political infighting. In essence he can’t really win the debate, his profile is high already but if he screws up he could lose badly so he just wants to stay involved enough to look like the leader of the country but not so much that he does something damaging by mistake. The body language is similar to Nicola Sturgeon but he has more experience and coaching for it.
Leanne Wood, the Plaid Cymru (Welsh Nationalist) Party leader is the least experienced and coached person on the panel. You can see that in her delivery. Notice how she bobs up and down in a strange dancing motion. This is an involuntary reaction to stress.
Being Parochial and Losing the Bigger Picture
Notice everything she says is about Wales, it has no relevance or meaning for the rest of the UK. I initially reacted badly to that as I was thinking what benefit would she be bringing to the rest of the UK is she found herself as part of the UK Leadership team. But after some thought it is entirely possible that she planned only to appeal to the Welsh electorate because she does not yet have as much support as she need to win enough seats in Wales to make a difference to the whole UK.
This is a very difficult tightrope to walk. She needs to appeal to the Welsh because that is where her will come from. But like me I would think other parts of the UK are likely to be turned off by her rhetoric because none of it applies to anyone except the Welsh.
Ed Milliband, leader of the Labour Party and current leader of the opposition. Regardless either he or David Cameron will be Prime Minister in the next government. Again because of the political landscape he has a lot to gain from the debate in the same way as Cameron has a lot to lose.
Consider how he maintains his look to camera and uses his right hand in a downward motion to emphasise almost every point. This is meant to show authority but he uses the gesture too much and not in a strong way.
The Rule of Three
Notice how he uses a rule of three. He makes three, “For five years…” statements and then hit’s us with a shift in tone (not enough but it is almost there) and the phrase, “…but it doesn’t have to be this way” and then launches into another batch of three benefit statements starting with the, “If I am Prime Minister….”
He does this other batch of three in a long winded way because he qualifies and explains each one. He then ends by calling back to the negative “Five year…” statements. The structure of the speech is nicely constructed and I think Milliband’s delivery lets it down.
Remember back to Nigel Farage and his shift of posture and tone when he got to switch from the negative to the positive? Compare and contrast the difference between the two and you will see a world of difference in impact for basically the same technique.
You will find if you watch some more Milliband that he goes from talking to the audience to talking direct to camera several times throughout the debate. This can be a really effective move and you will see news anchors do this all the time. Especially if they are reading from an autocue.
The trouble is whoever has been coaching Milliband knows the impact but has not taught him to do it correctly. If you have ever watched Start Trek the Old Generation you will see William Shatner doing hammy turns to camera at dramatic points and that is how Milliband is doing it.
How Do They Compare?
Once you have seen the opening statements have a look at the moderator Julie Etchingham. She is a presenter and broadcaster with lots of experience at this sort of work and compare her delivery to any of the panel.
It is also worth comparing and contrasting all of them with each other. I would turn the sound off so you don’t get dragged into the content of what they are saying and watch the body language. Leave a comment below with the things that you discover and please note this is as much as possible a politically neutral site so any overt political statements will be deleted.
Points to Ponder
We have already discussed Farage coming out as most trustworthy despite people not liking what he has to say. I think that is a failure on the part of the other politicians rather than a pure win for Farage.
The crux of the matter is none of the other men were really coached to let their personality come through. As a result they appeared stilted, artificial and that is going to reflect in the amount of rapport you will have with an audience.
The women did better I think because they had been coached less and are all less experienced in this environment. All three women also have a lot more passion about their politics and their values. Further into the debate that came through for all three of them and as a result they got a better reception than the men, leaving aside the fact that Farage seemed the most trustworthy.
Using Names and Negative Anchors
If you watch any of the parts where they respond to questions from the audience you will see all the candidates using the name of the questioner constantly to the point where it is quite distracting. The issue is they have all been told that using a person’s name helps build rapport. Your name is usually a positive anchor unless they are using it in the same way as you parents used it to let you know you were in trouble.
But the trouble is if you over use a person’s name in a quite mechanical way it comes over as a technique and is likely to have a negative effect. The problem is compounded by the fact that if the person repeatedly used your name that way it doesn’t matter how well the second person speaks your name you are still likely to respond badly. That is anchoring working in a negative way.
Who Won the Debate?
It was widely accepted that Nicola Sturgeon won the debate by a significant margin. I think that is because whilst she had the authoritative air that Cameron used she was more passionate and engaged. But at the same time she smiled, built rapport with the audience.
Linguistically remember right in her opening address she brought out all the things that people were going to attack her with, reframed them as benefits and then packaged the whole lot up in a consolidating gesture of coming in friendship and working with everyone.
She was attacked on thing just as expected but it is difficult to use those points when she had got to them and neutralised them first. I think the only reason Farage was considered more trusting was simply because he held that informal persona while Sturgeon was more ministerial.
Some Key Take Aways
I will do some smaller follow up articles developing some of these skills for a more typical situation but there are a few general points worth taking away.
NLP Tactics only work when you can use them in a natural way. Cameron, Clegg and Milliband used a lot of technique but without showing much of themselves. The end result looked false.
Passion and enthusiasm go a long way to getting your message across and a liberal dose of Covert Persuasion will help that along. If you compare the three women. All three had more passion and personality but Sturgeon was the most experienced at using these skills and she stole the debate.
Trust comes from talking to people as people. Nigel has been practising this for a long time. As a result he looks the most trust worthy of the entire panel.
There are a lot more things here that we could discuss but I think this article is long enough already. I will follow up with some smaller articles about some specific techniques and how you can use them in a more typical setting…and just as importantly how you can learn to use them without coming across as a bad politician.
If you have enjoyed this the link below will take you to a page where you will find a video half way down the page with me using the same skills (I would like to think a whole lot more skilfully though) in a live environment. I then break down what I was doing and explain it for the audience. Their reactions to what I had completely slipped past them is quite funny.
You can use hypnotic persuasion for lots of everyday circumstances like getting the kids to do their homework, convincing the boss to give you a pay rise, talking your partner into going on holiday, flirting, managing your co-workers and many other situations and this page will show you where to go to learn more.